MPs to have final Brexit vote by 12 March

Theresa May arriving in Sharm el-SheikhImage copyright

MPs will be able to have a final vote on the Brexit deal by 12 March, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.

Speaking as she travelled to an EU-Arab League summit in Egypt, Mrs May ruled out holding a so-called “meaningful vote” on her deal this week.

But she said “positive” talks with the EU were “still ongoing” and leaving on 29 March was “within our grasp”.

Earlier, Michael Gove urged his cabinet colleagues against backing a Commons vote on delaying Brexit.

The environment secretary said it would be the “wrong thing to do” if cabinet ministers Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke supported the bid, which aims to push back the UK’s exit date to prevent leaving without a deal.

On the plane to Sharm el-Sheikh for a summit between EU and Arab league leaders, Mrs May said following on from her own visit to Brussels last week and trips by her Brexit secretary and attorney general, her team would be returning to the Belgian capital on Tuesday for further talks.

“As a result of that, we won’t bring a meaningful vote to Parliament this week, but we will ensure that that happens by 12 March,” she added.

She said negotiations were continuing over the backstop – the controversial policy that aims to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland – after Parliament voted for her to seek “alternative arrangements” to what is set out in her deal.

Mrs May told reporters the government was “talking to the EU about various ways in which we can find a resolution to the issue that Parliament raised”.

But Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney warned on Sunday that his government could not be asked to “compromise on something as fundamental as the peace process”, on which the border played a key part.

He accused the UK government of wanting to change the backstop to “placate a group in the Conservative Party who are insisting on moving the prime minister away from her own policies”, and reiterated that the EU would not re-open the withdrawal agreement.

But he told Sky News they would try to “provide reassurance and clarification for the British Parliament to allow them to ratify this deal”.

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Media captionConfused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics.

On Wednesday, MPs will be able to put forward a range of amendments to show what direction they want Brexit to take – but it will not be the “meaningful vote”, which will be a final say on Mrs May’s overall deal.

One amendment, tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Conservative Sir Oliver Letwin, would give Parliament the opportunity to delay Brexit and prevent a no-deal situation if there is no agreement with the EU by the middle of March.

In the Daily Mail, Business Secretary Mr Clark, Work and Pensions Secretary Ms Rudd and Justice Secretary Mr Gauke said if the ERG stood in the way of the withdrawal deal being agreed “in the next few days”, they would be forced to vote for the amendment.

The ERG would then have “no-one to blame but themselves for delaying Brexit,” the trio said.

Mrs May said extending the process “doesn’t solve the problem”, adding: “Often people talk about the extension of Article 50 as if that will actually solve the issue.

“Of course it won’t. It defers the point of decision. There comes a point where we need to make that decision.”

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Media captionGove: “I will do everything I can to persuade colleagues to stay in government.”

The prime minister said she would not be taking action against the three ministers and denied collective responsibility in cabinet had broken down.

“What we have seen around the cabinet table, in the party, and in the country at large is strong views on the issue of Europe. That is not a surprise to anybody.

“We have around the Cabinet table a collective, not just responsibility, but desire, to actually ensure that we leave the European Union with a deal. That’s what we’re working for and that’s what I’m working for,” Mrs May said.

But the leader of the European Research Group of pro-Leave backbench Tory MPs, Jacob Rees-Mogg, told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics that, for ministers, “the act of voting against the government is the act of resignation”.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Mr Gove refused to say whether the ministers could keep their jobs if they backed a delay.

But he added: “It’s not just about a potential extension of Article 50, it’s about taking power away from the government. And who knows where we might end up?

“We might end up with a second referendum, which would do real damage to our politics.”

Labour ‘moving closer’ to public vote

Meanwhile, senior Labour MPs have said they are “moving closer” to backing a second referendum.

Another amendment has been tabled for Wednesday by Labour backbenchers Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, calling for Mrs May’s deal to be put to a public vote.

Speaking on Pienaar’s Politics, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “We’ve said to break the deadlock we’re going to have to now start thinking about moving towards a public vote… that will mean amendments coming up over this week.”

He said he had met the pair, along with shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer to discuss the amendment, which he said he was “really attracted to”.

But Mr McDonnell was looking to redraft it to to ensure it got backing from his own benches.

He added: “There’s increasingly large numbers of people who will consider now moving towards a public vote situation to block a no deal, and to block a bad deal, that Theresa May’s deal is – that will be the vote of this coming week.”

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme that “we are heading in that direction” towards a further referendum, but “there is still more play in the days ahead”.

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