THERESA May was forced to promise a fresh showdown vote on her Brexit deal early next month in a bid to end months of crippling deadlock.
Under heavy pressure from her frustrated Cabinet, the PM agreed to introduce the landmark Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week beginning June 3.
Theresa May has been forced to introduce the landmark Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week beginning June 3[/caption]
And she summoned Labour boss Jeremy Corbyn to a meeting last night to give him the key date too.
The long-awaited decision – repeatedly postponed by nervous No10 – sets a deadline of the end May for the six week-long cross-party talks for a softer deal to pass Brexit through the Commons.
But pushing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to a series of Commons votes without a guaranteed majority for it is very high risk for the PM, as defeat would see her whole EU deal in tatters and almost certainly end her premiership.
Mrs May saw off a dangerous revolt from her Cabinet during a tense three hour meeting in No10 yesterday with what one minister dubbed an “impassioned” plea against what she called “absolutism”.
Brexit would only happen if Leavers and Remainers agree to cede ground, she argued, telling her top table: “Everything in politics is binary at the moment”.
Mrs May is almost alone in the Cabinet now of believing there is still a chance of signing up the Labour leader’s after the May 23 euro elections.
Once the nationwide poll takes place, and both their parties are given a drubbing, No10 hopes bitter divisions in Labour will at least see Mr Corbyn turn a blind eye to some of his MPs backing the Government.
A No10 source said it was worth keeping the talks going until after MEPs are elected “to see what gives”, adding: “There is clearly split in Labour between blowing it all up and keeping going”.
The bill’s timetabling will also go some way to answering 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady’s demand that she set a departure date from No10, as defeat in the Commons is also likely to see her forced to resign.
After the marathon meeting, the PM’s official spokesman said: “Cabinet agreed to continue discussions with Labour to see what was possible.
“However, it was agreed that it was imperative to bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in time for it to receive royal assent by the summer parliamentary recess.”
Revealing her frustration, Brexiteer Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said while going into No10 for Cabinet: “We’ve got to get on with Brexit, we have to deliver it. So whatever that takes we have to deliver Brexit urgently”.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday appeared to criticise Mrs May for failing to follow through on her pledge to walk away from negotiations with the EU and leave with no deal.
He told a Wall Street Journal conference of chief executives that it is “very, very difficult to get a successful outcome to a negotiation if the other side thinks you will never walk away”.
Mr Hunt added: “In a way that is part of the reason why we have an impasse in the current negotiations because [the] other side, the Europeans, have sensed that the UK is not prepared to walk away and that has meant they have not been prepared to be as flexible as they might have been.”
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He also predicted the Tories and Labour will be “crucified” by voters if Brexit isn’t resolved by the next General Election.
Mr Hunt said it was “impressive” that the cross-party talks with Labour had lasted for seven weeks but threw doubt on them producing a solution, saying: “I don’t think anyone can be confident of an outcome one way or the other.”
Later in a Q&A Mr Hunt struggled to give an answer when asked why people should vote Tory in next week’s European elections, simply saying: “Because you believe in Conservative policies.”
Jeremy Corbyn is also under pressure to deliver on the deal[/caption]