Theresa May to give MPs one last chance to back her Brexit deal
Vote will take place in the first week of June, when the US president visits the UK
Jeremy Corbyn: Labour will not support the prime minister’s withdrawal Bill unless it has reached an agreement on the Brexit deal. Photograph: Jessica Taylor
Theresa May’s decision to introduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) next month gives MPs one last chance to back the Brexit deal they have rejected three times. Brexit secretary Steve Barclay told the House of Lords EU committee that the government will not bring the deal back for a fifth time.
“I think if the House of Commons does not approve the WAB then the Barnier deal is dead in that form,” he said.
The government’s determination to give the Bill its second reading in the first week of June creates a number of challenges, logistical as well as political. MPs return from their Whitsun recess on Tuesday, June 4th, but the prime minister will be preoccupied for much of the week with Donald Trump’s state visit.
The US president arrives in Britain on Monday, June 3rd, and his visit ends two days later with a D-Day commemoration in Portsmouth. May will leave with Trump that evening for Cherbourg where they will join other leaders for another D-Day commemoration on Thursday, June 6th.
If scheduling the Bill’s second reading that week so that the vote is on a day when the prime minister can take part will be difficult, winning the vote looks almost impossible. The best result May has achieved for her deal until now was on March 29th, when MPs rejected the withdrawal agreement by 58 votes. The DUP remain opposed to the deal, along with Labour and other opposition parties and a few dozen Conservatives, perhaps more than the 34 who voted against the government on March 29th.
Talks with Labour
Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman said on Wednesday that Labour will not support the Bill’s second reading unless it has reached an agreement with the government on the Brexit deal. The spokesman declined to rule out abstaining in the vote but other Labour sources later suggested that if the party was not supporting the government it would vote against it.
May’s hopes rest on two possibilities, the first of which is that next week’s European Parliament election results will be so bad for both main parties that they will be shocked into voting for the Bill as the quickest way of resolving Brexit. The other is that the talks with Labour, which continue despite grumbling from both sides, will bear some kind of fruit.
Corbyn’s spokesman described the talks as “very extensive, very detailed and very serious over a long period of time”, adding that they discussed “every single aspect of the Brexit process and possible alternatives”. But the two sides remain at odds over the most important issues, including the customs union, and next week’s elections could make the gaps more difficult to bridge.