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Brexit news latest: Theresa May would win working majority in snap general election, poll finds

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 12/02/2019 Hatty Collier
Theresa May wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Polling suggests Theresa May could win working majority in a general election (AP) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Polling suggests Theresa May could win working majority in a general election (AP)

Theresa May would win a working majority if a general election were held today but the Tories would only gain four seats, a new poll has found.

YouGov modelling for The Times, which correctly predicted a hung parliament, suggests that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour would lose 12 seats and the Tories would gain four.

If the polling were correct, it would take the Tories to 321 seats just enough for a working majority. The Commons has 650 seats but Sinn Fein’s seven MPs never take up their seats and the Speaker is not counted.

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Labour would drop from 262 seats to 250, according to the poll. The Lib Dems would take four seats reaching 16 and the SNP would increase their number of seats by four to 39. Ukip, again, would win nothing, according to the poll.

Mrs May has previously told her MPs that she will not lead her party into another election but while she has struggled to get enough support for her deal in the Commons, speculation over a snap vote has been rife. 

Watch: Talks with Brexit Secretary constructive, Barnier says (Evening Standard)

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A working majority would increase Mrs May’s power but Parliament is still likely to be unstable as she could be thwarted by small numbers of MPs on either wing of her party when trying to push through her Brexit policies.

It comes as Downing Street said Mrs May will make a Commons statement on the latest developments in the Brexit negotiations on Tuesday afternoon to give MPs more time to "digest the content" ahead of a series of expected Commons votes on Thursday.

Elsewhere Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay was said to have held "constructive" talks on Monday night with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels despite his remarks that the EU would not reopen the withdrawal agreement.

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

The pair agreed to further meetings in the coming days, while their teams will continue to work to find a way forward.

Mrs May has told her MPs to “hold our nerve” to force the EU to renegotiate and urged them to give her more time to get an updates deal at a “crucial stage” in talks, rather than taking control themselves, according to Sky News.

She talked up hope of a breakthrough and insisted she believed she can reach a deal that the House can support.

a man wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a building: Michel Barnier, right, with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (EPA) © Provided by Local News RSS EN-GB Michel Barnier, right, with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (EPA)

The EU has repeatedly ruled out changes to the divorce deal but there is hope it could change the non-binding political declaration on the UK’s future relationship with the bloc. Many MPs want there to be a time limit on the controversial backstop which is included in the deal to avoid a hard border between the UK and Ireland.

On Tuesday, cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom dismissed the prospect of Mrs May softening her stance on a customs union. Labour has asked for a customs union and said it will back a deal that includes one.

The Commons Leader insisted she would stay in the Cabinet to help Mrs May deliver Brexit and denied that the PM was softening her stance over a customs union in a letter to Mr Corbyn.

Mrs May's reply sparked concern among Conservative Brexiteers that the Prime Minister could concede too much ground to Labour in an attempt to win cross-party backing for a deal with Brussels.

Mrs Leadsom said: "I think she's making quite clear that what Corbyn is demanding is actually not as good as what the Prime Minister's deal is offering.

"So he wants a customs union and he is unclear as to whether that means he also wants an independent trade policy.

"He's unclear as to whether he also wants to stop free movement, and of course the EU's view would be, 'well, if you're in the customs union then you have free movement and you abide by the common external tariff'.

a woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom (PA) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom (PA)

"I think there's no doubt that what the Prime Minister is offering is better than what Corbyn is demanding, which simply begs the question, if they like it, why don't they vote for it?"

Mrs Leadsom said there was "no chance" Mrs May would adopt Mr Corbyn's "view of the world", adding: "The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear we're leaving the EU, we're leaving the customs union, we're leaving the single market.

"We're taking back control, we won't be paying money over, free movement will end, and we will have our own independent free trade policy, so I definitely don't see the Prime Minister agreeing to Corbyn's world view."

The Brexiteer frontbencher refused to say what the cut-off date would be for the necessary legislation to get through the Commons to allow the UK to leave the EU as planned on March 29.

She said it was possible to pass bills "quite quickly" with "goodwill" from the Commons and Lords, but added: "It's just not possible to say how quickly it could be done, but obviously it depends on the way in which there is adequate debate on the meaningful vote and that's what the Prime Minister is determined to do.

"(It) is to make sure that parliamentarians have had ample opportunity to look at the deal she's putting forward before it comes to that meaningful vote."

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