Theresa May set to back down on plan to enshrine Brexit date in law

  • Prime minister set to abandon plan to entrench Brexit date in law.
  • May wanted to make March 2019, 2019 the official exit date but will accept compromise in order to avoid another government defeat.
  • Amendment will mean ministers can delay Brexit with the EU’s permission.
  • May to be quizzed on Brexit and Westminster sexual harassment by cross-party committee today.

LONDON – Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to back down today on her plan to enshrine the date Britain will leave the European Union in law in order to avoid a second parliamentary defeat within the space of a week.

The prime minister had originally planned to entrench March 29, 2019, as the official date of Brexit in law in a move that pleased the Conservative Party’s more staunch Brexiteers.

However, May is set to bow to pressure from Conservative rebels to amend the EU (Withdrawal) Bill so that ministers will be able to delay Brexit with the EU’s consent.

Tory rebels had threatened to inflict a second embarrassing defeat on the government within the space of a week following MPs voting to give Parliament a meaningful vote on a final Brexit deal last week.

The compromise amendment, which May is set to accept on Wednesday evening, was tabled by Conservative MP Oliver Letwin and reportedly has the support of over 40 Tory MPs.

Its backers argue that Parliament may need more time to dissect and debate the withdrawal agreement agreed by Britain and the EU, especially if negotiations run to the final days or even hours of the Article 50 period.

Today is the EU (Withdrawal) Bill’s final day in committee stage where MPs from across the House have been examining the historic legislation line by line.

The Bill will enter the House of Lords in the New Year, where it is expected to undergo intense scrutiny and could face further amendments.

May set for committee grilling

Before turning her attention turns to Letwin’s amendment, May will appear in front of the Parliamentary Liaison Committee, where she is set to be interrogated on issues like Brexit and sexual harassment in Westminster.

Committee head Dr Sarah Wollaston said the cross-party group will “examine important areas of domestic policy.”

Sarah WollastonBBCDoctor Sarah Wollaston MP.

Wollaston added: “Given that this session follows such a significant EU Council meeting and recent events in Parliament, on this occasion will start with a focus on Brexit negotiations and transitional arrangements.

“The committee will also be asking about sustainable long-term funding for health and social care and explore progress since the Prime Minister’s pledge on the steps of Downing Street to fight burning injustices.

“Whilst making sure that Parliament gets its own house in order when it comes to tackling sexual harassment, we must not lose sight of the impact of this in many different workplaces and we plan to raise this with the Prime Minister to ask about her plans.”

Wollaston is one of the 11 Conservative MPs who rebelled against the government in last week’s amendment 7 vote. Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, another Tory rebel, is also on the committee.

The pro-Brexit wing of Parliament will be represented by staunch leaver Bernard Jenkin and Sir William Cash.

The prime minister is also set to be quizzed on social care and tackling inequality. Her last appearance in front of the Liaison Committee came in December 2016 ahead of an eventful year in British politics.

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