Jeremy Corbyn is set to back a rebel Brexit amendment that could kill a no-deal

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Getty Images
  • The Labour Party is set to support an amendment that could delay Brexit and reduce the chances of no deal.
  • Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on Tuesday expressed support for the plan put together by senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper.
  • If passed next week, it would give MPs the power to extend Article 50 if Theresa May doesn’t have approval for her Brexit deal by February 26.
  • MPs are trying to gain more control over the Brexit process after the prime minister’s deal suffered a record-breaking House of Commons defeat last week.

LONDON – The Labour party is set to back an amendment designed to kill the prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a deal in what could prove a pivotal moment in the Brexit process.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on Tuesday evening told BBC Newsnight it was “highly likely” that his ally Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will instruct Labour MPs to support Parliament’s plan to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

“It’s increasingly likely that we’ll have to take that option,” McDonnell said.

The plan, spearheaded by senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper, could give MPs the power to delay Brexit by extending the Article 50 negotiating process if Theresa May does not have a Brexit deal by Tuesday, February 26.

McDonnell’s comments came after other seniors Labour figure indicated that the party would support it.

Shadow Cabinet Office Minister John Trickett told BBC News on Tuesday evening: “If a resolution comes forward, in principle yes we can back it.” Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey described Cooper’s plan as “fantastic” earlier in the day.

The amendment is expected to pass with Labour’s support, meaning MPs could be given significant new power to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal on March 29. Eight Conservative MPs have signed the amendment with more expected to support it next week.

However, the amendment would need to be also be passed as a separate piece of legislation, with May’s government working on ways to slow down or block its passage through the Houses of Parliament.

The International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on Wednesday that he believed the prime minister will push ahead with a no-deal Brexit if parliament fails to pass a deal by Brexit day on March 29.

Delaying or preventing Brexit would be a “calamitous” betrayal of voters who backed Leave in the referendum, Fox said, adding that this would best the “worst outcome” of all.

Amending the backstop

Theresa MayDan Kitwood/Getty Images

Cooper’s amendment is just one of numerous amendments to May’s Brexit plan B that will be debated next week as backbench MPs try to wrestle control of the process from the government following the House of Commons’ historic rejection of the prime minister’s deal.

Conservative MP Dominic Grieve has tabled an amendment of his own which would give the House of Commons six days to debate Brexit options opposed by the government, like a Norway-style Brexit or a second referendum.

The prime minister has repeatedly refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit despite calls from Labour leader Corbyn and other opposition figures.

However, it is not just pro-EU MPs that May has to worry about.

Pro-Brexit Conservative MP Andrew Murrison last night re-submitted an amendment which gives support to May’s deal as long as there is an explicit end date of December 2021 on the controversial backstop for the island of Ireland.

Several senior ministers reportedly expressed support for the strategy of trying to amend the backstop in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The prime minister last week said she would reach out to opposition parties in an attempt to get her deal through the Commons but her focus has returned to convincing Conservative MPs and the Democratic Unionist Party which props up her government.

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