May ponders dash to2018 Brussels in search of delay to save her deal
THERESA MAY was last night ‘wargaming’ a plan to cancel this week’s British Commons vote on Brexit and make a desperate dash to Brussels to seek further concessions from the European Union.
The Irish Mail on Sunday understands the EU is prepared to offer Britain a six-week extension to the two-year Article 50 exit process. But senior EU politicians have warned Downing Street there is ‘zero chance’ of reopening the text of the Withdrawal Agreement.
The British government is instead focusing on seeking additional legally binding protocols to try to water down the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.
After a furious backlash from her cabinet colleagues and her aides, Mrs May has warned her warring party that if they vote down her Brexit deal they risk handing the country to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – and being stuck permanently in the EU.
Dozens of Tory MPs have threatened to rebel in Tuesday’s historic Commons vote on her Brexit deal.
Mrs May, who says she has received thousands of messages of support from voters, is trying to avert rebellion by ‘weaponising’ the prospect of Mr Corbyn becoming prime minister. She said Britain ‘would truly be in uncharted waters’ if the deal is voted down.
Such is the scale of the expected revolt – more than 100 Tories, by some estimates – that a growing number of senior government figures are urging Mrs May to delay the vote and embark on a final bid to secure last-ditch concessions from Brussels this week. She is considering her options and how they might play out. One scenario is to call off the Commons vote and instead travel to Brussels on Tuesday. There she would warn the EU that its current deal would not get through the British parliament and seek more concessions. Last night, one of her allies said: ‘Losing the vote is a terrible look and pulling it is a terrible look, there is no denying that. Either way, she’s going back to Brussels.’
However, pulling the vote would remove the risk of opposition amendments allowing parliament to seize control of negotiations, plunging the Christmas period into chaos and raising the prospect of a second referendum.
Diplomatic sources in Brussels said EU Council legal boss Hubert Legal has drawn up secret plans to give Britain enough time to hold a second referendum before exit day in March. Mrs May is due to attend the EU Council in the Belgian capital on Thursday, but aides have warned her that if she goes early without putting the deal to MPs, the EU will not take her seriously.
Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn is still deciding whether to table a no-confidence motion against the government should Mrs May lose the key Brexit vote. Labour bosses fear that as DUP MPs have said they won’t support a no-confidence motion in those circumstances, Labour cannot win it.
However, Labour MPs backing a second referendum are piling pressure on Mr Corbyn to go ahead with a no-confidence vote, even if it looks set to fail. Because if it does, the party will be committed to call for a so-called ‘people’s vote’ as the only way to stop Brexit on Tory terms.
A source in his office said: ‘The timing of a no-confidence motion is a tactical decision to best achieve an election.
‘Those publicly lobbying for this option or that option aren’t following our policy of preferring an election to sort out Brexit.’
‘Losing the vote is a terrible look’
desperate: Theresa May might call off Brexit vote