Labour will table motion of no confidence in government if MPs reject Brexit deal

Corbyn declines to endorse second referendum on Brexit if confidence motion fails to precipitate a general election

Labour will table a motion of no confidence in Theresa May's government this week if MPs reject her Brexit deal, Jeremy Corbyn has signalled.

However, the Labour leader declined to endorse a second referendum on Brexit if a confidence motion fails to precipitate a general election.

"We will table a motion of no confidence in the government at a time of our choosing, but it's going to be soon, don't worry about that," Mr Corbyn told BBC One's the Andrew Marr Show.

At its party conference last year, Labour agreed that if it rejected the government’s Brexit deal and was unable to bring about a general election, it would look at other options, including a second referendum. But Mr Corbyn said another referendum on Brexit was not his favoured option.


“My own view is that I would rather get a negotiated deal now if we can to stop the danger of a no-deal exit from the EU on March 29th, which would be catastrophic for industry, catastrophic for trade.”

If MPs reject May’s deal on Tuesday she must return to the Commons by next Monday with a motion outlining how she plans to proceed on Brexit. MPs will be allowed to amend that motion, opening the way for alternative plans such as membership of a customs union and the European single market.

Labour favours a permanent customs union with the EU, but has drawn back from the so-called "Norway plus" option which would also see Britain remaining in the single market.

Mr Corbyn said on Sunday that the free movement of people would not necessarily be a stumbling block in the way of Labour backing a close relationship with the EU.

"I am not against the free movement of people. What I want to end is the undercutting of workers' rights and conditions which has increasingly happened in some parts of western Europe. It will be open to negotiation but the point has to be about the treatment of EU nationals in this country, which we would radically change straight away."

Procedural rules

A number of British newspapers reported on Sunday that a cross-party group of backbenchers was seeking to change procedural rules in the House of Commons to take control of the parliamentary timetable away from the government.

Standing Order 14 (1), introduced in response to the obstructionist tactics of Charles Stewart Parnell in the 1880s, gives government business precedence over other business. According to the reports, anti-Brexit MPs will table an amendment next week proposing that future motions on the business of the House could be tabled by MPs and not just the government.

"What recent events have shown, with events over the last week with what happened on the legal advice where the government was forced to act in a way it didn't want to, is [that] the uncertainty in terms of what will happen in the House has increased," Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay said on Sunday.

“So those on the Brexiteer side seeking ideological purity with a deal are risking Brexit because there is a growing risk that events could unfold in ways that they are leaving the door ajar to ways that increase the risk to Brexit.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times