Plot by Remainer MPs to delay Brexit boosted after May refuses to back rival plan

  • A plan by MPs to force Theresa May to extend Article 50 looks set to succeed after Downing Street failed to back a rival plan.
  • The Cooper-Letwin amendment now appears likely to pass comfortably after a rival plan from moderate Conservative MPs to seek a short Brexit delay failed to receive backing from the prime minister, who rejected the prospect of any delay at all on Monday.
  • “There doesn’t seem to be the momentum behind it […] we won’t put it down unless there is broad and substantial support from across the House,” said one Tory MP of the rival plan.
  • MPs are set to vote on a string of key Brexit amendments on Wednesday.

LONDON – A plot by MPs to avoid a no-deal Brexit has been boosted after Downing Street failed to throw its weight behind a rival plan which could have scuppered it, Business Insider has learnt.

MPs are set to vote on a string of major amendments on Wednesday as the House of Commons attempts to wrestle control of the Brexit process from Prime Minister Theresa May.

One of the amendments, tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Conservative Oliver Letwin, would prevent a no-deal Brexit next month by forcing May to seek a lengthy extension to Article 50 if her deal is rejected once more.

There were reports on Monday that the government could try to see off the “Cooper-Letwin” plan by backing a different amendment, drawn up by Conservative MP Simon Hart, which watered down the Cooper-Letwin amendment by supporting a strictly limited two-month extension to the Article 50 negotiating process.

However, a lack of support from MPs and failure by Downing Street to throw its weight behind the plan – with May firmly rejecting any Brexit delay on Monday – mean the amendment is now unlikely to be tabled, although no decision will formally be taken until tomorrow.

“There doesn’t seem to be the momentum behind it,” said one member of the Brexit Delivery Group [BDG], which comprises moderate Tory MPs who broadly support the prime minister’s Brexit deal and whose members were involved in drawing up the Hart amendment.

The MP told BI that internal disagreements among Conservative MPs who support the prime minister’s deal meant there did not appear to be sufficient support for the plan.

Some pro-Brexit MPs who were approached to support the plan were reluctant to endorse any sort of Brexit delay, while many pro-EU MPs will instead opt to support the Cooper-Letwin plan because it is legally binding, unlike the Hart amendment.

“We won’t put it down unless there is broad and substantial support from across the House,” said the MP.

The prime minister’s strong rejection of any Brexit delay on Monday has also dashed hopes that Downing Street might support the BDG’s plan, angering MPs.

She told reporters at a meeting of world leaders in Egypt that “a delay in this process doesn’t deliver a decision in Parliament [and] it doesn’t deliver a deal.”

The plan was a last-ditch attempt to see off the Cooper-Letwin amendment which now looks highly likely to pass, with some MPs predicting that it would now command a double-figure majority in parliament.

An earlier version of the plan was defeated by 24 votes in January.

The Brexit Delivery Group will formally decide on Tuesday to table the amendment ahead of Wednesday’s vote, as well as discussing with like-minded Labour MPs whether to pursue the plan.

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