Prime Minister Theresa May is set to face another attempt to topple her administration next week, with Labour and the SNP both considering motions of no confidence in the final days before parliament rises for Christmas.
Opposition parties are understood to be waiting to see if Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn lodges a parliamentary motion of no confidence after the Prime Minister updates the Commons on this week’s EU Council summit, before launching their own bid to force a general election.
Yesterday Downing Street confirmed that the government would defy opposition demands, with MPs not being asked to vote on Mrs May’s Brexit deal before the end of this year.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said yesterday: “The ‘meaningful vote’ will not be brought to Parliament before Christmas.”
The spokeswoman said the vote – which was scheduled for Tuesday this week but postponed by the Prime Minister after she accepted she would lose heavily – will come “as soon as possible in January”. A deadline of 21 January for parliament to vote on the Brexit terms is set out in legislation.
In Brussels, Mrs May played down the prospects of an “immediate breakthrough” on the so-called Northern Ireland border backstop in talks with EU leaders.
The Prime Minister arrived for the summit seeking fresh legal and political assurances to help get her Brexit deal “over the line” in Parliament.
However, she acknowledged there was a limit to the progress she could make on the issue which has turned so many of her MPs against her during the two-day EU summit meeting.
“My focus now is on ensuring that I can get those assurances that we need to get this deal over the line, because I genuinely believe it’s in the best interests of both sides - the UK and the EU – to get the deal over the line, to agree a deal,” she said.
“But I recognise the strength of concern in the House of Commons and that’s what I will be pushing to colleagues.
“I don’t expect an immediate breakthrough, but what I do hope is that we can start work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary.”
EU leaders arriving for the meeting insisted that while they want to be helpful to Mrs May, they are not prepared to reopen negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement. Another emergency summit is expected in January.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who met Mrs May in The Hague on Tuesday, said they need to “demystify” the backstop.
“It will be impossible to break open the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement. That is a given,” he said.
Mr Rutte added: “There is nobody in his right mind in the European Union who wants to trigger the backstop because it is bad news not only for the UK but for the EU.”
Mr Corbyn said: “It is clear there will be no changes to the deal the Prime Minister brought back last month.
“There must be no more dither and delay … the Prime Minister should put her deal before Parliament next week.”