May could de­lay Brexit vote

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front page - By Edward Mal­nick

THERESA MAY is poised to play for time by fur­ther post­pon­ing a fi­nal vote on her Brexit deal next week.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s aides are be­lieved to be draw­ing up a plan to make MPs’ ap­proval of the deal con­di­tional on the Euro­pean Union pro­vid­ing fur­ther con­ces­sions.

The move is in­tended to help limit the scale of opposition to the vote while buy­ing time as ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tinue with Euro­pean Union lead­ers. A White­hall source said that while the tone of di­a­logue be­tween Down­ing Street and Brus­sels had im­proved, they re­mained “far apart” on what each were pre­pared to ac­cept.

Sep­a­rately, The Sun­day Tele­graph dis­closes to­day that Ian Lav­ery, the Labour Party chair­man, has pub­licly de­scribed the cam­paign for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on Brexit as “dis­re­spect­ful”, as vot­ers had al­ready opted to leave.

Mean­while, it can be re­vealed that the Oc­to­ber march or­gan­ised by the Peo­ple’s Vote was at­tended by just a third of the num­ber that its or­gan­is­ers

claimed, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­nal es­ti­mate by the Greater London Author­ity.

Se­nior EU fig­ures are said to be wait­ing un­til the last mo­ment be­fore the dead­line for reach­ing a Brexit deal to of­fer any ad­di­tional mea­sures, so MPs are left with no time to de­mand more.

Mrs May’s ad­vis­ers are un­der­stood to be con­sid­er­ing an amend­ment mak­ing ap­proval of the deal sub­ject to the Gov­ern­ment ob­tain­ing as­sur­ances that the Ir­ish back­stop, the fall­back plan in­tended to pre­vent a hard bor­der, will be tem­po­rary. Nikki da Costa, who was Down­ing Street’s direc­tor of leg­isla­tive af­fairs un­til Novem­ber, said: “Get­ting con­di­tional ap­proval isn’t enough for the Gov­ern­ment to go ahead but it may be enough to show the EU there is a ma­jor­ity if they can move a lit­tle fur­ther.”

She added that such an amend­ment could al­low the Gov­ern­ment to “re­turn for a third go at the mean­ing­ful vote, with a proven recipe for a ma­jor­ity.”

The vote was ini­tially planned for last month but was post­poned in the face of an ex­pected de­feat of up to 200 MPs. It was due to take place on Jan 15 or 16, af­ter de­bate on the deal re­sumed in the Com­mons this week.

With­out a way for the UK to ex­tract it­self from the ar­range­ment, the amend­ment would be un­likely to win over the DUP’s 10 MPs on whose votes Mrs May re­lies. An­other pos­si­ble amend­ment would give Par­lia­ment the right to serve no­tice to exit the back­stop af­ter a year if the sides failed to agree a trade deal to re­solve the bor­der is­sue.

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