May draws up nine ways to save Brexit: PM will race to get Brexiteer rebel backing for a revised deal next week before MPs force her to delay leaving the EU
- Theresa May is facing a desperate struggle to break Parliament Brexit deadlock
- Advisers have drawn up a series of options that might help her get deal past MPs
- Mrs May facing Remainer bids to bind her hands in vote on her Plan B next week
- Allies have admitted if amendment is passed she will have to delay Brexit date
Theresa May is preparing to mount an all-out bid to win more concessions from the EU as the clock runs down to save her Brexit deal.
The Prime Minister has been presented with nine options for breaking the bitter deadlock in Parliament, including securing a unilateral get-out clause or time limit on the Irish border backstop.
But Mrs May will have just weeks to clinch a package that can get majority support in the Commons – as she desperately scrambles to fend off efforts by Remainers to tie her hands in a series of crunch votes on Tuesday.
The high-stakes wrangling comes as allies of the premier conceded she will be forced to try to delay the UK’s departure date beyond March if a the Houses passes a mechanism proposed by pro-EU MPs next week.
Mrs May is asking Parliament to endorse her ‘Plan B’ for finding a way through the Brexit impasse – which involves tweaking the deal that was humiliatingly rejected last week, and bringing it back for another dramatic showdown.
Theresa May (pictured in the Commons yesterday) has been presented with nine options for breaking the bitter deadlock in Parliament, including securing a unilateral get-out clause or time limit on the Irish border backstop
Mrs May was presented with nine ‘scenarios’ for breaking the Parliamentary deadlock by her chief Brexit adviser Oliver Robbins
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But an amendment tabled by Yvette Cooper would effectively turn the constitution on its head by seizing control of Parliamentary business from the government – allowing backbench MPs to put forward legislation demanding an extension to the Article 50 process.
What is Tuesday’s Plan B vote and what will it mean?
What is happening?
Because Theresa May’s Brexit deal was defeated, the law says she must tell Parliament what her Plan B is.
This has to be done in a motion to the Commons, which will be voted on by MPs next Tuesday night.
That motion can be re-written by MPs if they table amendments and win a vote in favour of them.
Some amendments have already been tabled and MPs can keep producing them until Monday night.
What does May’s plan say?
It promises more cross-party working, renews commitments to protecting workers’ rights after Brexit and says the PM will ask Brussels for more concessions on the backstop.
It it based on the current deal that was crushed by 230 votes last week.
What do the main amendments say?
Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment says Parliament should vote on ‘options’ including a renegotiation of the deal to get a permanent customs union and for a second referendum.
A cross party amendment from Yvette Cooper and Nicky Morgan seeks to block no deal by giving time to a draft law that would require the Government to delay Brexit if a deal has not been agreed by February 26. It upturns normal convention by putting a backbench MP’s Bill ahead of Government plans.
An amendment from Tory rebel Dominic Grieve seeks to set up weekly debates that would mean regular votes on what to do in the absence a deal. His amendments sets aside six named days for the debates – including as late as March 26.
What would the vote do?
Legally nothing – but if the Commons votes in favour of a clear way forward by a majority it will be a major political signal of what might happen.
Is it a new ‘meaningful vote’ that can approve May’s deal?
No. At some point, the PM will have to stage a repeat of last week’s vote to get explicit approval from MPs to go ahead with her deal if she wants it to survive.
Labour has signalled it will back the plan to stop the UK crashing out of the EU, along with more than a dozen Tory rebels, giving it a real chance of success.
If the amendment is passed on Tuesday, the Bill will come before Parliament on February 5, and if it becomes law Mrs May will have to ask for an extension by February 26.
Mrs May has also vowed to try and defeat amendments calling for a second referendum, a permanent customs union, and a further series of indicative votes on what should happen next.
If she succeeds the House will give tacit approval to her strategy of tweaking her Brexit deal and bringing it back for another dramatic vote.
However, the Government also appears to be encouraging MPs to back an amendment from Tory MP Andrew Murrison that would effectively set a time limit on the backstop of December 31, 2021.
Some ministers hope that if the Murrison amendment is passed it will pile pressure on the EU to concede an expiry date on the backstop – which Brexiteers fear the UK will be stuck in forever, and the DUP believes risks splitting the union.
According to the Telegraph, Mrs May was presented with nine ‘scenarios’ for breaking the Parliamentary deadlock by her chief Brexit adviser Oliver Robbins.
They included getting a unilateral exit mechanism from the backstop, including an end date on it, or the whole UK being in ‘regulatory alignment’ with the EU rather than just Northern Ireland.
The idea of withholding some of the £39billion divorce bill until the UK has signed permanent trade terms with the EU has also reportedly been mooted.
However, at least three of the options apparently involve reopening the Withdrawal Agreement – something the government and Brussels have previously insisted is not possible.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier repeated that the divorce package could not be changed yesterday – and also warned that the bloc’s leaders will not sign off an Article 50 extension unless there is a clear majority in Parliament for a way of delivering Brexit.
No10 sources played down the option, insisting the PM ‘gets hundreds of bits of advice every week’.
Mrs May will press ahead with efforts to forge a consensus today, meeting union leaders including Unite’s Len McCluskey in Downing Street.
But she has still not held discussions with Jeremy Corbyn, who is refusing to meet her until she rules out leaving the EU with no deal.
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