Government plans fresh vote on Brexit deal next month

Plan to move forward with withdrawal bill comes as prime minster continues talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over possible compromise

Photo: PA

By Kevin Schofield

15 May 2019

MPs will be given a fresh vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal within three weeks, the government has said, even if the current talks intended to strike a deal with Labour to implement the plan fail.

Downing Street has confirmed that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – the legislation needed to confirm the UK's departure from the EU – will be introduced to the Commons at the start of June.

The announcement followed what Number 10 called "useful and constructive" talks between the prime minister and Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday evening.


But it is understood the Labour leader made clear that his party will not support the WAB unless a compromise agreement between both sides is reached in advance.

May's move marks a dramatic shift in strategy, as previously Number 10 has insisted the bill would only be introduced if the government believed there was a majority for it in the Commons.

Without Labour support – and with eurosceptic Tories and the DUP maintaining their opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement she negotiated with Brussels that has been rejected twice in meaningful votes by MPs – the likelihood is that it would be defeated.

Talks between the government and Labour aimed at agreeing a Brexit deal have been going on for six weeks without any sign of a breakthrough.

The main stumbling block is Labour demand for a permanent customs union with the EU, as well as a guarantee that any agreement cannot be ripped up by May's successor as Conservative Party leader and prime minister.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “This evening the prime minister met the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons to make clear our determination to bring the talks to a conclusion and deliver on the referendum result to leave the EU.

“We will therefore be bringing forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week beginning the 3rd June.

“It is imperative we do so then if the UK is to leave the EU before the summer Parliamentary recess. Talks this evening between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition were both useful and constructive.

“Tomorrow talks will continue at an official level as we seek the stable majority in Parliament that will ensure the safe passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the UK’s swift exit from the EU.”

A Labour party spokesperson confirmed that the government would provide further details of its proposals today, but added that Corbyn has set out concerns about May’s ability to deliver on any compromise agreement.

"In particular he raised doubts over the credibility of government commitments, following statements by Conservative MPs and Cabinet ministers seeking to replace the prime minister.”

Cross party talks on a possible deal have been under way since plans in the House of Commons to identify a possible way forward through a series of indicative votes foundered when no option got a majority. The latest round of talks comes as the prime minister’s chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins returned to Brussels yesterday in order to discuss how changes could be made to the political declaration setting out the aims for the UK’s future relationship with the bloc if the discussions lead to an agreement.

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