Grieve urges May to delay exit from EU if she loses vote

Conservative rebel believes UK prime minister should ask for article 50 deadline to be extended

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve speaking during a convention on a second EU referendum at the Emmanuel Centre in central London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve speaking during a convention on a second EU referendum at the Emmanuel Centre in central London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire


A leading Conservative rebel has called on Theresa May to delay Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union if she loses next week’s vote on her Brexit deal. Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said that if MPs rejected the deal, the prime minister should strike the exit date of March 29th from legislation and ask the EU to extend the article 50 negotiating deadline.

“I believe the EU will extend article 50 for us but I think they would only do it in a very limited number of circumstances . . . and we need to explore what those circumstances may be,” he told the BBC.

“My feeling is that this will have its own dynamic and whilst I want to keep the government stable . . . I hope the prime minister will listen carefully to what members of parliament and members of her own government are saying to her.”

Mr Grieve was the architect of an amendment approved by MPs this week which will require Mrs May to return to parliament with an alternative plan within a few days of her deal being rejected.

‘Brexit paralysis’

Earlier, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt warned Conservative Brexiteers that rejecting the deal could trigger a process that would lead to Brexit being abandoned.

“The parliamentary arithmetic is challenging. But, also, the choices are very clear. And I think after this week things have changed. Up till now I think people have quite rightly been worrying about the prospects of no deal. Now there is another possibility coming into sight, which is actually no Brexit,” he said.

“If this deal is rejected, ultimately what we may end up with is not a different type of Brexit, but Brexit paralysis. And Brexit paralysis ultimately could lead to no Brexit.”

Mr Hunt, who campaigned against Brexit but has recently become one of its most hardline cabinet champions, said it was looking increasingly unlikely that parliament would allow Britain to leave the EU without a deal.

With the DUP’s 10 MPs and dozens of Conservative Brexiteers preparing to join opposition MPs to vote against Mrs May’s deal next Tuesday, it is facing a heavy defeat. But former education secretary Nicky Morgan said if the prime minister wanted to win a parliamentary majority for her deal, she should look across the aisle.

“The prime minister will have to decide – and some of us have been urging her for months – she either carries on trying to win over the DUP and some of the hardest Brexiteers in the Conservative party, or she builds a cross-party consensus,” she told the Telegraph’s politics podcast.

“At the end of the day if we want to deliver this and get the right result for the country then it should be a cross-party effort. What we have seen in the past few months is backbenchers talking to each other, that is now in the open because amendments are being signed on a cross-party basis.”

During the debate on the deal in the House of Commons on Friday, Conservative Mark Francois compared it to Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 agreement with Adolf Hitler at Munich. He said it would leave Britain as a vassal state under the suzerainty of the European Court of Justice, with a backstop from which it could not escape.

“This country has never bowed the knee to anyone in almost 1,000 years and I don’t believe we should start now. We have never surrendered to anyone in this House and we never, ever will, including next Tuesday night,” he said.

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