Cross-party MP group seeks to stop no-deal Brexit by tabling article 50 Bill

Yvette Cooper’s Bill would require Theresa May to extend article 50 beyond April 12th

A cross-party group of British MPs will step up efforts to stop a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday, tabling a Bill by Labour's Yvette Cooper to extend article 50 beyond April 12th.

MPs opposed to a no-deal outcome will put plans to hold another round of indicative votes on hold after parliament remained in deadlock on Monday night. Instead, efforts will focus on Ms Cooper’s Bill, which would require British prime minister Theresa May to put forward a proposal for the extension of article 50 to ensure the UK cannot leave the bloc with no deal by default. An amendment passed by MPs last week gives them the power to take control of the order paper on certain dates, which could give MPs time to debate and pass the Bill – though it will face several difficult hurdles in both the House of Commons and the Lords.

Ms Cooper said that the government could decide how long an extension to propose. “We are now in a really dangerous situation with a serious and growing risk of no deal in 10 days’ time,” Ms Cooper said. “The prime minister has a responsibility to prevent that happening. She needs to put forward a proposal, including saying how long an extension she thinks we need to sort things out. If the government won’t act urgently, then parliament has a responsibility to try to ensure that happens even though we are right up against the deadline.”

The Bill is backed by Sir Oliver Letwin, the Tory MP behind the move to hold indicative votes. Sir Letwin said it was worth attempting to pass the bill though the MPs expected to face substantial opposition.


“This is a last-ditch attempt to prevent our country being exposed to the risks inherent in a no deal exit,” he said. ‘“We realise this is difficult. But it is definitely worth trying.” The one-clause Bill will be presented on Tuesday, requiring the prime minister to immediately come forward with a proposal for an extension to the article 50 period beyond April 12th for parliament to debate and vote on. MPs will then present a business motion for debate on Wednesday to pave the way for all the Commons stages of the Bill – which is likely to spark a fierce debate on whether it should be allowed to proceed.

Should MPs pass the business motion and give the Bill permission to proceed, MPs hope to complete all the different stages of the Bill in the House of Commons on Thursday and then send it the House of Lords.

It remains possible that the government could bring back a third meaningful vote on Mrs May’s Brexit deal later this week, if the Speaker, John Bercow, permits it. MPs could also bring back more indicative votes on Thursday, on different Brexit options including a referendum or a customs union.

Labour MP Lucy Powell, one of the key movers behind the Norway-style deal pushed by a cross-party group of MPs during the indicative votes process, said parliament needed to take on an even bigger role. “We’ve put the government back in the driving seat - but it can’t drive,” she said. “A motley crew of backbenchers without the resource and power of the government have actually achieved more consensus in a few weeks than government has in many months.” – Guardian