Downing Street says Brexit vote will go ahead despite uncertainty

A Brexit vote will go ahead in the Commons on Tuesday, but Downing Street was unable to say whether MPs would be deciding whether to formally approve Theresa May’s deal with Brussels.

Amid speculation the promised vote could be withdrawn, with no concessions secured from Brussels and defeat almost certain, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said a motion would be put before MPs on Tuesday.

However, reports over the weekend suggested that MPs could be asked to approve changes to the Brexit deal that haven’t been agreed yet rather than the deal as it stands, in a bid to stave off another huge loss in the Commons.

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The motion is due to be tabled later on Monday, alongside the publication of the documents setting out the deal, including the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration agreed in November.

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The Downing Street spokesman cautioned against "speculation" that the Prime Minister might ask Parliament to vote on a "conditional" motion. He declined to discuss how Mrs May will approach the no-deal motion expected on Wednesday if she loses the meaningful vote, saying only: "Her focus is solely upon speaking to fellow leaders and getting on with the work required to allow MPs to support the deal and to bring this stage of the process to an end."

Labour MP Yvette Cooper said she would table amendments to any motion in a bid to force votes on whether to allow a no-deal Brexit and whether to extend Article 50, both promised by the Prime Minister if her deal was defeated on Tuesday.

Conservative MPs and ministers on both sides of the Brexit debate warned the Prime Minister would have to quit if the votes were put off, with Nick Boles tweeting: "I am sure that the Prime Minister will honour these three commitments. If she doesn’t she will forfeit the confidence of the House of Commons."

Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on SundayPrime Minister Theresa May spoke to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday
Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday

Mrs May spoke with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday night, with sources saying talks were "deadlocked".

Chances of an 11th hour dash to Brussels by the Prime Minister dwindled on Monday, with an EU spokesman confirming there were no talks at a political level scheduled.

“It is now for the House of Commons to take important decisions,” the Commission’s official spokesman told a press conference.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the AFP news agency on Monday: "We held talks over the weekend and the negotiations now are between the Government in London and the Parliament in London."

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Over the weekend, the Prime Minister also spoke to a number of EU leaders, including France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel.

Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan warned that Mrs May's position would become untenable if Parliament "dismantled" her Brexit policy in a series of votes during the course of the week.

Some senior Conservatives said on Sunday that the PM should postpone the "meaningful vote" rather than risk another damaging reverse.

Instead she was being urged to table a "conditional" motion setting out the terms for dealing with the backstop issue which Parliament would be prepared to accept.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group, told the Times that it "would not be a foolish way to proceed".

He added: "I think a meaningful vote with an addendum saying this House will support a deal if such and such is done might be a way of uniting the party or limiting the scale of the defeat."

Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Steve Brine warned on Sunday that he will resign unless Tory MPs are given a free vote on whether Britain should leave the EU without a deal.

"I would find it very difficult, actually impossible to be part of a policy that was pursuing actively no-deal,” he told the BBC’s Westminster Hour programme.

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Tory MP George Freeman said Mrs May should quit after Brexit, telling the Radio 4 Today programme: "I hope the Prime Minister can get withdrawal through and then I do think we need to choose a new leader for a new generation with a new vision of a conservativism that can make sense of Brexit and reinspire and reunite the nation.”