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No promises from Theresa May as Parliament takes control of Brexit

UK Prime Minister Theresa May faces the prospect of a further defeat in Parliament as MPs seek to take control of the Brexit agenda. Credit: Shutterstock.

British Prime Minister Theresa May looks to have conceded defeat on her Brexit deal, concluding today that there was not enough support for the deal to return for a third vote, leaving the way open for Parliament to take control of the Brexit process.

Following discussions with the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Government’s position was rejected by both leaders. The Labour Party is supporting an amendment to the Government motion on its Withdrawal Bill that will see indicative votes on alternative ways forward.

Arlene Foster of the DUP also concluded that there was no change to May’s deal and that with the Irish backstop (the major objection to the withdrawal agreement) still in place the party could not support the deal.

This led May to tell Parliament today, “As things stand there is still not sufficient support in the House to bring back the deal for a third meaningful vote.”

However, May remained combative, also telling Parliament that she was “skeptical about indicative votes.”

“When we’ve tried this kind of thing in the past, it has produced contradictory outcomes or no outcome at all, there is a further risk when it comes to Brexit as the UK [United Kingdom] is only one-half of the equation and the votes could lead to an outcome that is unnegotiable with the EU [European Union],” May told Parliament.

Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Oliver Letwin along with the chair of the Brexit Committee, Labour’s Hilary Benn, tabled [filed] an amendment that is similar to an earlier amendment that was defeated by just two votes. Their amendment would allow Parliament to gain control of Parliamentary business through a series of indicative votes. Labour has said it will support this amendment and May has said the Government will oppose it.

Currently, the expectation is that this time the amendment will be approved.

May, however, said that as these indicative votes are non-binding she would not necessarily accept the outcome of the votes. “No government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is, so I cannot commit the government to delivering an outcome of any votes held by this House, but I do commit to engaging constructively with this process.”

May also reminded Parliament that the default option remains a no deal Brexit at 11:00 p.m. on 12 April, an outcome that the EU now believes is the most likely and remains as a sword of Damocles as May continues to attempt to drum up support for her own deal. Though, in a somewhat contradictory manner, May said Parliament had rejected no deal and so it will not happen. “The default outcome continues to be no deal, and the bottom line remains that if there is no support for a deal and the House is not prepared to countenance leaving without a deal we will have to seek a longer extension. This would entail the UK holding European elections,” said May.

Voting on the Government’s motion and the three chosen amendments, one on indicative votes for Parliament, an amendment on a customs union tabled by Jeremy Corbyn and a third amendment tabled by Labour MP Margaret Beckett to allow for a debate if the country is seven days away from a no deal Brexit, all votes will take place by 10:00 p.m. local time tonight.

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Nick Savvides, Staff Writer

Nick came to FreightWaves in December 2018 from Fairplay, a shipping market publication. He covers the shipping, freight and logistics industry in Europe. Since starting his career as a journalist in 1990, Nick has worked for a number of significant freight publications abroad, including International Freighting Weekly, the online news service for Containerisation International, ICIS, the chemical industry reporting service, as well as Seatrade in Greece. Nick also worked as a freelance journalist writing for Lloyd’s List, The Observer, The Express and The European newspapers among others before joining Seatrade Newsweek in Athens.

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