Theresa May sets January date for MPs’ Brexit vote

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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May returns to Downing Street in London, Britain, December 10, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

MPs will vote on the UK’s Brexit deal in the week beginning 14 January, Theresa May has told Parliament.

The vote was due to be held last week but was put on hold after Theresa May admitted she was set to lose.

Announcing a new date, Mrs May said the EU had made it clear the Irish backstop was “not a plot to trap the UK” and urged MPs to see Brexit through.

Labour had threatened to force a confidence vote in the PM if she did not set a date for the vote.

While stopping short of seeking to oust Mrs May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said she had “led the country into a national crisis” and she no longer had cabinet backing.

He said a month would have been wasted since the original 11 December vote was postponed, with “not a single word renegotiated and not a single reassurance given”.

“The deal is unchanged and is not going to change,” he said. “The House must get on with the vote and move on to consider the realistic alternatives.”

Labour said they threatened the confidence vote before they saw an advance copy of the PM’s speech and they believed she backed down in the face of their challenge.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 – the deal sets out the terms of exit and includes a declaration on the outline of the future relations between the UK and the EU.

But it only comes into force if the UK and European parliaments approve it.

In a Commons statement, Mrs May said MPs would resume the debate on her Brexit deal – which was halted last week – in the week of 7 January with the “meaningful” vote taking place in the following week.

“It is now only just over 14 weeks until the UK leaves the EU and I know many members of this House are concerned that we need to take a decision soon,” she said.

She said she had won fresh guarantees at last week’s EU summit over measures to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and hoped to secure additional “political and legal assurances” in the coming weeks.

Earlier on Monday, an EU spokesman said it had provided the “clarifications” requested on the contentious issue of the Northern Ireland border backstop and “no further meetings were foreseen”.

During her statement, Mrs May faced calls from across the House for the vote to be held immediately.

The SNP’s Ian Blackford said the government was a “laughing stock” and Parliament needed to “take control of the situation and find a solution”.

Former education secretary Justine Greening said Mrs May had led the UK down a “political cul-de-sac” and suggested criticising alternatives to her deal was “pointless” given the level of opposition to it among MPs.

“She now isn’t just not listening, she is not allowing debate,” she said.

Former cabinet ministers Dominic Raab and Esther McVey urged the PM to accelerate planning for a no deal exit while another, Andrew Mitchell, urged her to consider suspending the Brexit process to allow for further negotiations.

But she won support from one “previously sceptical” Brexiteer, Sir Edward Leigh, who said her efforts to secure a legally-binding protocol on the Irish backstop might pay off, urging her to “keep calm and carry on”.

Earlier, No 10 said it had “no plans” for votes on other Brexit outcomes if the PM’s deal is rejected after it emerged David Cameron had given advice to his successor.

The BBC understands Mr Cameron has been in touch with Mrs May about how a series of “indicative votes” on various different Brexit outcomes could be handled if there was deadlock over the terms of the UK’s exit.

The PM is coming under pressure from ministers to “test the will of Parliament” through a series of non-binding votes – which would see MPs pass judgement on the options available in the hope of identifying the most popular.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said he backed Mrs May’s deal but if Parliament was implacably opposed, it should be “invited to say what it would agree with”.

“Businesses expect MPs to take responsibility rather than just be critics,” he told Radio 4’s Today.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd made the same point, saying “all options” should remain on the table and if the deal was rejected “let’s think about how we test the will of Parliament to find out where the majority is.”

Calls for another referendum have grown in recent weeks amid signs a majority of MPs are opposed both to the deal on the table but also leaving the EU without any kind of agreement. (Excerpts from BBC)

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