LONDON — A cross-party group of MPs have launched a bid to give the House of Commons the power to decide what action the UK government should take if Theresa May’s Brexit deal cannot get through Parliament.
Labour MP Hilary Benn is the lead signatory on an amendment to the meaningful vote which if passed would give MPs control over the next steps in the Brexit process should May’s Brexit deal with the EU fail to win support.
In practice, it means that should Parliament refuse to accept the prime minister’s deal, MPs could instruct her to extend negotiations, hold another referendum, or pursue a different sort of Brexit like a softer, Norway-style exit.
The amendment — backed by MPs like Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston — could determine the outcome of Brexit with MPs almost certain to vote down May’s deal on December 11.
As of Friday morning, 100 Conservative MPs have said they will not support the prime minister’s deal. Neither will the DUP which props up May’s government or a vast majority of MPs in Labour and the other opposition parties.
Despite the prospect of a landslide defeat, May is currently refusing to budge on her Brexit deal with the EU.
Travelling to Argentina on Friday, she told journalists that she would not switch to Labour’s policy of a permanent customs union with the EU, claiming: “I’ve been very clear about my position, we won’t be in the customs union.”
She also refused to discuss the possible options if her deal is unable to get through Parliament.
“It has always been said we wouldn’t get to this position of having a deal. Now we’ve got to the position of having a deal, all you seem to want to be asking about is the next stage,” the prime minister said.
May also refused to discuss what will happen if her Brexit deal is voted down during a forensic question and answer session with senior MPs on Thursday, repeatedly insisting: “I am focused on the meaningful vote.”
Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, has tabled an amendment of his own which seeks to guarantee that Britain won’t leave the EU without a deal no matter what happens in the upcoming vote on May’s deal.
The prime minister has been boosted by pro-Brexit members of the Cabinet like Liam Fox who have agreed to stay in government and support her deal despite concerns about the details of the agreement.
Trade Secretary Fox will today use a speech in Bristol, southwest England to encourage Conservative MPs to get behind May and her controversial deal. He is set to say: “In politics, we cannot always have the luxury of doing what we want for ourselves — but we have an abiding duty to do what is right for our country.”
He is set to add: “The deal we’ve reached will give us a firm and stable base on which to leave the EU and build this country’s global future… Now is the time to set aside our differences.”
Andrea Leadsom, another leading government Brexiteer, still has significant reservations with the deal — specifically the backstop for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland — allies of the MP have told Business Insider.
However, she is set to vote for the deal next week, as Environment Secretary Michael Gove and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who have both been tipped to quit a government over May’s deal.