May’s Brexit Plan B is ‘one more heave’ on her deal

The PM (pictured at church with husband Philip yesterday) has been scrambling to find a way through after her deal was crushed in the Commons last week

The PM (pictured at church with husband Philip yesterday) has been scrambling to find a way through after her deal was crushed in the Commons last week

The PM (pictured at church with husband Philip yesterday) has been scrambling to find a way through after her deal was crushed in the Commons last week

 

Theresa May will unveil her Brexit ‘Plan B’ today – trying to win over Tory Eurosceptics and the DUP be securing more concessions from the EU.

 

The PM has been scrambling to find a way through after her deal was humiliatingly crushed in the Commons last week.

 

But in a conference call with Cabinet last night Mrs May effectively ruled out trying to find a cross-party consensus – instead making clear she will focus her efforts on bringing Brexiteer rebels and the DUP back onside.

 

The approach has been branded ‘one more heave’ by ministers, but it is far from clear that the EU is willing to give enough ground on the crucial Irish border backstop issue.

 

Mrs May will appear in the House later to explain how she intends to proceed.

 

She will also table a ‘neutral’ motion to be debated and voted on – along with any amendments tabled by MPs – on January 29.

 

Government sources said she would be holding further talks with MPs, as well as business leaders and trade unionists, throughout the week.

 

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused to hold discussions with the PM, and there has been little success for the government in trying to peel off Opposition MPs. The deal was hammered by a record margin of 230 votes in the Commons last week.

There have also been fears that forcing through a package with Labour support will split the Tories and cause an election.

 

Mrs May is now expected to press for changes to the Northern Ireland backstop in the hope she can win round Tory Brexiteers and her allies in the DUP.

 

The Daily Telegraph reported she was even considering trying to amend the Good Friday Agreement – although No10 sources dismissed the idea as ‘mad’ and a ‘non-starter’.

 

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney was adamant over the weekend the backstop – intended to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic – was an essential part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

 

In evidence of deepening Tory splits, business minister Richard Harrington today publicly urged the PM to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

 

“It’s an absolute disaster for the country and it’s supported by a minority of a minority of people,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

 

Mr Harrington urged MRs May to take a fresh approach: “She should in my view say ‘we are responsible people, we’re going to do our duty to business, and we’re going to rule out a no deal because we want a great deal’.”

 

He also said he was “afraid” of Jaguar and Mini closing if there was a no-deal Brexit.

 

However, in a glimmer of hope for Mrs May there are signs some Brexiteers could reluctantly back her deal amid concerns a cross-party grouping of MPs are plotting to impose a ‘softer’ Brexit – or stop it altogether.

 

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘Even Mrs May’s deal would be better than not leaving at all.’

 

The lights were on early in Downing Street as another dramatic week begins in Westminster 

The lights were on early in Downing Street as another dramatic week begins in Westminster 

The lights were on early in Downing Street as another dramatic week begins in Westminster

 

Dominic Grieve (left) and Yvette Cooper (right) are trying to empower Parliament to take control of the Brexit process

 

There was anger among pro-Leave MPs at moves to enable backbenchers to take control of the Commons business from the Government – in breach of normal conventions – through a series of amendments to the neutral motion.

 

One group including senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory former minister Nick Boles is seeking to give time for a bill to suspend the Article 50 withdrawal process if there is no new deal with Brussels by the end of February.

 

Another more radical amendment drawn up by former attorney general Dominic Grieve would allow a motion by a minority of 300 MPs – from at least five parties and including 10 Tories – to be debated as the first item of Commons business the next day.

 

Mr Grieve said it would enable the Commons to stage a series of ‘indicative votes’ on the various alternatives, such as a ‘soft’ Norway-style deal or a second referendum to establish which could command a majority.

 

He denied claims he was seeking to prevent Britain leaving the EU after International Trade Secretary Liam Fox accused pro-Remain MPs of trying to ‘hijack’ the 2016 referendum vote.

 

Mrs May is expected to use her statement to explain how she intends to proceed in the run up to the vote on January 29, rather than setting out a detailed ‘plan B’.

 

Amid a bitter blame game over who was responsible for the deadlock, Mr Corbyn has been refusing to talk unless Mrs May rules out a no-deal Brexit.

 

He said: ‘May’s no-deal threat is empty and hugely expensive, wasting billions of pounds we should be spending on vital public services.

 

‘It’s a pointless and damaging attempt to appease a faction in her own party when she now needs to reach out to overcome this crisis.

 

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP said: ‘Rather than listening to other options the Prime Minister is instead closing them down, intent on cutting off any alternatives and leaving a false choice between her defeated dead deal and a disastrous no-deal.’

 

‘It would be the height of irresponsibility and economic self-harm if Theresa May does not categorically rule out a no-deal Brexit today. Her attempt to run down the clock must be stopped.’

 

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May’s Brexit Plan B is ‘one more heave’ on her deal

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