Theresa May rejects cabinet pleas to postpone Brexit vote
Theresa May has rejected a plea from some in her cabinet to postpone the vote on the withdrawal bill but has offered concessions to parliament on the contentious issue of the backstop arrangement for avoiding an Irish border.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether she was prepared to delay a vote she is expected to lose, May said: “No. What I am doing is leading up to a vote on Tuesday. Yes I am meeting colleagues, I’m listening to colleagues’ concerns. Not about delaying it, I’m listening to colleagues’ concerns around the backstop.”
The Times reported [£] that some cabinet members, including the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, were pushing for a delay to the vote over fears the defeat would be so large it could bring down the government.
May signalled that she was determined to plough on with a vote and suggested a “parliamentary lock” on the Irish backstop could persuade more MPs to back it.
She said: “I am talking to colleagues about how we can look at parliament having a role in going into that and coming out of that.”
She insisted a backstop arrangement to avoid a hard border in Ireland was inevitable in any deal, including “Norway” and “Canada” options being proposed by some as alternatives to her plan.
She confirmed she was in discussions with MPs opposed to the deal about giving parliament a say in whether the UK entered backstop arrangements or extended the transition period.
May said: “If we get to that point there will be a choice between going into the backstop and extending the transition period.”
She added: “There are pros and cons to both sides of that. People have a concern at the backstop that we could be in it indefinitely. But in the backstop we have no financial obligations, we have no free movement, and we have very light level playing field rules with the EU. In the implementation period we still have to negotiate the terms, but there will be concerns that there would be more money to be paid, for example.
“The obvious, in terms of the role of the UK, is for it to be parliament that makes these decisions.”
Asked if she had a plan B if her deal was voted down on Tuesday, May said: “That question is not for me, that question is for those who want to oppose this deal. The options are there: there’s a deal, no deal, or no Brexit.”
She added: “It is clear that there are those in the House of Commons who want to frustrate Brexit and overturn the vote of the British people, and that’s not right.
“The risk is that we end up with no Brexit at all. I’m clear that should not happen. We have a good deal for leaving the European Union.”
May repeated her opposition to a “people’s vote” on her deal. “I don’t think there should be another referendum. We gave people the choice in the referendum as to whether to leave the European Union or not and they gave us a very clear message.”
She said those backing a second referendum wanted the public to give a different message. “There are many people who are talking about a second referendum – it isn’t anything to do with this deal, it is actually about trying to frustrate Brexit. This is a point in time when everybody should be thinking of the national interest. And the national interest is making sure that we deliver on that vote.”
Calling for unity over the deal, she
said: “Now is the time for this country to come back together again. Let’s not create more division by going back for another referendum.”
Theresa May signalled she was determined to plough on with a vote she is expected to lose. Photograph: Xinhua/Barcroft Images