- UK Prime Minister Theresa May has offered MPs a binding vote on delaying Brexit.
- The prime minister told the House of Commons on Tuesday that MPs could decide whether to postpone Britain’s exit from the European Union should they reject her deal for a second time.
- The announcement means Britain’s March 29 exit from the EU is likely to be pushed back.
- May made the concession after senior members of her Cabinet threatened to quit to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
LONDON – Prime Minister Theresa May has offered MPs a binding vote to delay Brexit and avoid leaving the European Union without a deal, a dramatic change of policy designed to prevent a new wave of Cabinet resignations.
May told MPs she would allow them the opportunity to back a “short, limited delay” to Brexit should they again reject her deal.
The House of Commons on March 12 is due to vote again on May’s Brexit deal, which MPs heavily defeated earlier this year.
May told the Commons on Tuesday that should MPs reject her deal for a second time, they would be given a series of binding votes on whether to leave the EU without a deal or to delay Brexit.
“The UK will only leave without a deal on March 29 if there is explicit assent in the House for that outcome,” May told MPs.
She said that if her deal were rejected for a second time, then MPs would be offered a vote on March 13 on leaving without a deal and then a vote on March 14 on whether to delay Brexit.
“The government will on 14 March bring forward a motion on whether Parliament wants to seek a short, limited extension to Article 50,” she told the House of Commons.
May said she would not seek a delay beyond June, as doing so would mean Britain taking part in the coming European Parliament elections.
A Downing Street spokesman, however, confirmed that MPs would be able amend the prime minister’s motion to force a longer delay.
The prime minister had previously insisted that Britain would leave the EU on March 29 even if Parliament failed to ratify the deal she negotiated with the EU.
May gave in to demands for a vote, however, to head off potential mass resignations from her Cabinet, with up to 15 ministers threatening to stand down this week.
She insisted that she would do everything she could to prevent a delay.
“Let me be clear: I do not want to see Article 50 extended,” she said.
“Our absolute focus should be on working to get a deal and leaving on 29 March.”
She added that “an extension cannot take ‘no deal’ off the table.”
“The only way to do that is to revoke Article 50, which I shall not do, or agree a deal,” she said.
‘Badly made fudge’
The Labour Party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, accused the prime minister of putting jobs at risk by refusing to make it clear that she would prevent a no-deal Brexit.
“Every delay, every bit of badly made fudge, just intensifies the uncertainty for industry, business, and investment being held back, jobs being lost, and more jobs being putting at risk,” he said.
“The real-life consequences of the prime minister’s cynical tactics are being felt across the country. Factories relocating abroad, jobs being lost, investment being canceled. Thousands of workers at sites across Britain’s towns and cities are hearing rumours and fearing the worst.”
He also confirmed that Labour would back a second referendum on whether to leave the EU, telling MPs that “we believe there must be a confirmatory public vote” for any Brexit deal.
Business groups welcomed May’s announcement.
“The prime minister is right to put her cards on the table for what happens if she fails to get approval for a withdrawal deal by 12 March,” Edwin Morgan, the interim director general of the Institute of Directors, said.
“Parliament must feel and accept the weight of responsibility that is on their shoulders. The message from our members is clear: Nearly 80% would choose to avoid a no-deal outcome. Too much information about that scenario is still missing – including from our own government – for firms to be ready in a few short weeks.”
May’s concession came after the UK government delayed the so-called meaningful vote on her Brexit deal this week.
The delay led to a series of ministers threatening to quit the cabinet to back a coming backbench Brexit amendment aiming to delay Brexit.
Any delay would have to be agreed unanimously by the other 27 EU countries.
The chances of that happening seemed buoyed this week when the European Council’s president, Donald Tusk, welcomed the prospect of a delay, describing it as a “rational solution” to preventing a “chaotic Brexit.”
He added that other EU members would “show maximum understanding and goodwill” to the proposal.