- Theresa May is losing control of the Brexit process.
- Ministers publicly call on her to hand over control to Parliament as she heads towards a landslide defeat on her deal.
- A spokesperson for the prime minister said there were “no plans” to allow parliament to vote on different Brexit options but refused to rule out the option in future.
- Senior members of her team are preparing for a potential second referendum.
- The prime minister will today rule out a second vote as campaigners for another referendum gain momentum.
- People’s Vote campaigners are “chuffed” that May is discussing another referendum.
LONDON – Theresa May’s ministers have told her to hand control of the Brexit process to MPs if she fails to get her deal through parliament in the New Year.
The prime minister is due to present her deal to parliament in January after postponing a planned vote on the agreement last week in order to avoid a landslide House of Commons defeat.
With opposition to the deal refusing to budge, May’s senior ministers are now calling on her to hand control of the process to Parliament.
“We can’t have continued uncertainty and I think Parliament should be invited to say what it would agree with,” the Business Secretary Greg Clark told the Today Programme on Monday, adding that “every MP needs to regard themselves as responsible participants.”
This was backed by the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who told the Andrew Marr show on Sunday that he “wouldn’t have a huge problem with Parliament as a whole having a say on what the options were.”
A spokesperson for the prime minister said there were “no plans” to allow parliament to vote on different Brexit options but refused to rule out such an outcome.
The Education Secretary Damian Hinds agreed, telling BBC 5 Live on Sunday that “there is a value in, sort of, flushing out, what these various different options are.”
Ministers want May to hold a series of indicative, non-binding votes to find out what MPs would like her government to do next. Options could include a Norway-style soft-Brexit in which the UK remained inside the single market; a harder exit with the possibility of signing a trade deal with the EU in the future, which Brexiteers call a “managed no-deal”; or putting the Brexit question back to the people for another referendum.
The prime minister has reportedly so far resisted calls for her to hand over the process to MPs, insisting that she can secure sufficient concessions from the EU to allow her deal to pass through parliament.
The push for May to hand over control of the Brexit process comes as reports suggest other senior members of her team have been in talks with MPs about supporting a second Brexit referendum.
Her chief of staff Gavin Barwell and her effective deputy David Lidington have reportedly been laying the groundwork for a new vote if May’s deal fails in the Commons.
The prime minister will today say that holding a second referendum would do “irreparable damage” to British politics.
“Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum,” she will tell the Commons. “Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.
“Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last. And another vote which would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it.”
The People’s Vote campaign for another referendum believes the fact that May feels the need to dedicate a House of Commons speech to the subject of another public vote is a sign of the campaign gaining momentum.
“We live rent-free inside Theresa May’s head these days,” one campaigner told Business Insider on Monday, while a senior figure in campaign said: “It raises the issue and allows wavering Labour MPs to come out for it under the cover that the prime minister hates it.”
Another said: “It shows exactly how far we have come that she’s giving a big statement in the House of Commons after an EU summit and it’s all about us. It means we get coverage when we don’t do anything.”
The prime minister will update MPs after her failed attempt last week to seek further concessions from EU leaders.
May was humiliated by senior EU leaders in Brussels after her demands for new legally binding assurances on the so-called Brexit backstop were rebuffed.
The prime minister had sought extra reassurances that the backstop – which is designed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit – was unlikely to be used and would be time-limited.
However, rather than firming up the political declaration that accompanies the Withdrawal Agreement, as she had hoped, the EU actually removed significant assurances that it already contained.
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