Prime minister to give details of plan to get withdrawal agreement bill ‘over the line’
Theresa May is to set out the details of her “new deal” on Brexit in a speech at 4pm as she paves the way for a last-ditch attempt to take Britain out of the EU before she leaves Downing Street, The Guardian reports.
The prime minister’s spokesman said cabinet had discussed, “alternative arrangements, workers’ rights, environmental protections, and further assurances on protecting the integrity of the UK in the unlikely event that the backstop is required”.
However, much of the focus will be on whether the government has moved far enough on customs arrangements and the prospect of a second Brexitreferendum to win over Labour MPs.
May told her cabinet colleagues on Tuesday: “The withdrawal agreement bill [Wab] is the vehicle which gets the UK out of the EU and it is vital to find a way to get it over the line.”
The discussion lasted more than two hours, against the backdrop of clashing comments from the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
Asked about Hammond’s speech, in which he is expected to say that a no-deal Brexit would be a betrayal, May’s spokesman said that option remained a “plausible” outcome and preparations for it would continue.
Leadsom suggested earlier on Tuesday she would be unwilling to sign off significant concessions on a customs union. “I have been very clear for years: leaving the EU means leaving the single market, leaving the customs union, taking back control of our money, border and laws.”
Asked whether there had been disagreement during the lengthy discussion, the spokesman said: “Brexit is an issue which evokes strong opinions. These are very often reflected around the cabinet table.”
The cabinet also discussed the plans for Donald Trump’s forthcoming visit. The president is due to take part in D-day commemorations, which fall in the same week of early June when May has promised to offer MPs another vote on Brexit.
MPs have already rejected May’s deal three times, but Downing Street is determined to frame the second reading of the Wab as a vote on a “new deal”. It has been drawn up after six weeks of cross-party talks with Jeremy Corbyn, which failed to result in a deal that Labour could whip its MPs to support.
Many of the elements that emerged from those talks, and from the government’s previous efforts to tempt both Labour and Brexit-supporting Tories to support the deal, are likely to be incorporated into the legislation.
Tabling it is likely to be one of May’s final acts as prime minister. If she wins the vote, she is likely to remain in office to see the legislation through all its parliamentary stages – something Downing Street hopes can be completed before MPs’ summer recess.
But if the bill falls, May has promised to meet the executive of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, and would then be expected to set out a timetable for her departure. A crowded field of potential successors, including several in the cabinet, have already set out their positions on a range of issues in preparation for a summer campaign.
Labour had feared any deal it signed up to could be torn up by May’s successor, who is expected to come from the right wing of the party. May is likely to urge Labour MPs to seize the opportunity to legislate to give parliament a say over future trade negotiations, rather than leave the way clear for a new prime minister to leave the EU without a deal by default.
Downing Street signalled that the Wab was likely to include the Snell-Nandy amendment: a plan drawn up by the Labour MPs Gareth Snell and Lisa Nandy to ensure parliament is consulted on the next phase of negotiations.
However, May promised to accept it before the third meaningful vote, and neither Snell nor Nandy supported the government.