Brexit: Labour urges May to ditch deal and seek fresh approach

Dominic Grieve says in Commons he has never felt so ashamed to be a Conservative

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said  May was threatening MPs with leaving the EU without a deal. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said May was threatening MPs with leaving the EU without a deal. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA


Labour has called on Theresa May to stop trying to force her Brexit deal through the House of Commons and instead work with other parties to find a compromise plan. Opening an emergency Brexit debate on Wednesday, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said the UK prime minister was threatening MPs with leaving the EU without a deal.

“We have to find a way through this impasse, and that requires us to come together as a House to consider and vote on the options and to provide a process for that. It is not helpful to put the deal, which has already been rejected, over and over with differing threats. Having accepted a motion last week to take no deal off the table, the prime minister is now trying to put no deal back on the table within a week by just changing the date of no deal, so that she can again ram the deal up against the deadline with the old ‘my deal or no deal’ response,” he said.

In her letter to European Council president Donald Tusk, the prime minister blamed speaker John Bercow for preventing a vote on her Brexit deal this week by ruling that MPs could vote on it again only if it had been changed. She said she would, however, put the deal to another vote next week.

“In advance of that vote I would be grateful if the European Council could therefore approve the supplementary documents that President Juncker and I agreed in Strasbourg, putting the government in a position to bring these agreements to the House and confirming the changes to the government’s proposition to parliament. I also intend to bring forward further domestic proposals that confirm my previous commitments to protect our internal market, given the concerns expressed about the backstop,” she said.

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DUP negotiations

The government has been negotiating with the DUP a package of measures including a legal guarantee that Northern Ireland would not be required to diverge from the rest of the UK in regulations without the approval of the Stormont institutions. Downing Street said the negotiations were continuing but DUP sources were not expecting a breakthrough in the next few days.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn walked out of a meeting the prime minister convened with opposition party leaders on Wednesday night, apparently because former Labour MP Chuka Umunna was there representing the Independent Group. The leaders of the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens later issued a joint statement calling for Brexit to be cancelled through a revocation of article 50 rather than leaving the EU without a deal.

Mrs May’s request for a short extension angered both the Brexiteers and remainers in her own party and former attorney general Dominic Grieve said he had never felt so ashamed to be a Conservative.

“When my right honourable friend the prime minister came to the despatch box today at prime minister’s questions, I confess I think it was the worst moment I have experienced since I came into the House of Commons. I have never felt more ashamed to be a member of the Conservative Party, or to be asked to lend her my support,” he said during the emergency debate.

“I have great sympathy for her, I have known her for many years ... but I have to say, I could have wept. Wept at her being reduced to these straits and wept to see her zig-zagging all over the place, rather than standing up for what is in the national interest.”