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Brexit latest: Theresa May tells MPs there is 'still not sufficient support' to bring back deal for third meaningful vote

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 25/03/2019 Hatty Collier, Ella Wills
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Theresa May has told MPs that there is still not "sufficient" support to bring back her Brexit deal to the Commons for a third meaningful vote.

But the Prime Minister said she would continue her efforts to build support for the deal - defeated by 230 votes in January and 149 votes in March - and stage a vote before the end of the week.

Addressing MPs in the Commons on Monday, Mrs May, who is facing pressure to quit as PM to get her deal over the line, said she would also oppose an amendment that seeks to let MPs take control of Brexit.

The European Council has set a deadline of Friday for the PM to secure parliamentary approval for her Withdrawal Agreement if the UK is to leave the EU with a deal on May 22.

If she cannot get it through the Commons, then the UK has until April 12 to propose a different approach or crash out of the EU without a deal.

a man sitting on a table: Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would be backing the Letwin amendment which seeks to give MPs control of the Brexit process (Sky News) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would be backing the Letwin amendment which seeks to give MPs control of the Brexit process (Sky News)

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mrs May said she regretted having to delay Brexit beyond the scheduled date of March 29.

But she cautioned MPs against seeking to obstruct a statutory instrument tabled on Monday which will remove the date from Brexit legislation, warning that this would "cause legal confusion and uncertainty but it would not have any effect on the date of our exit".

MPs are expected later on Monday to debate and vote on a proposal to force a series of indicative votes on alternatives to her Withdrawal Agreement.

Related: Government 'could ignore' MPs' indicative votes on Brexit, minister claims

Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin has tabled a cross-party backed amendment to pave the way for MPs to vote for a series of options to see if anything commands a majority and can provide a way out of the current Brexit impasse.

Theresa May, Philip Hammond posing for the camera: Under pressure on Brexit: Theresa May (Reuters) © Provided by Local News RSS EN-GB Under pressure on Brexit: Theresa May (Reuters)

Mrs May said that the Government would oppose the Letwin amendment as allowing MPs to take control of Parliamentary business is an "unwelcome precedent to set which would overturn the balance of our democratic institutions."

However she said the Government would provide time to allow MPs to debate and vote on the alternatives to her deal.

"It will be for this House to put forward options for consideration and to determine the procedure by which they do so," she said.

"However I must confess that I am sceptical about such a process of indicative votes."

Brexit in-depth: All the latest news, analysis and expert opinion

She told MPs she could not guarantee that she would commit to implementing anything MPs voted for in an indicative process.

"The votes could lead to an outcome that is un-negotiable with the EU," she said.

"No government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is. So I cannot commit the Government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this House, but I do commit to engaging constructively with this process."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that his party will back the Letwin amendment telling the Commons: "It is time for Parliament to take control."

But Mrs May told the Commons the proposal would set an unwelcome precedent which would "overturn the balance of our democratic institutions".

Leave vs Remain: Images of a divided nation (Photos)

She said: "The Government will oppose this amendment this evening, but in order to fulfil our commitments to this House would seek to provide Government time in order for this process to proceed."

Setting out the choices facing MPs, Mrs May said: "Unless this House agrees to it, no deal will not happen.

"No Brexit must not happen.

"And a slow Brexit, which extends Article 50 beyond May 22, forces the British people to take part in European elections and gives up control of any of our borders, laws, money or trade, is not a Brexit that will bring the British people together."

She said her deal was a compromise which respected both sides of the argument and "if this House can back it, we can be out of the European Union in less than two months".

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