MPs hoping for a relaxing Christmas can think again after Theresa May’s spokesperson confirmed that the Brexit vote will happen “before January 21,” destroying any hope that it could be arranged before the festive period.
The prime minister performed a shock U-turn on Monday, delaying the parliament’s vote on her unpopular Brexit deal, leading to widespread condemnation from MPs on all sides of the House.
May explained that she did so in order to avoid defeat, and in the hope of reaching a better deal with the EU. Her critics accused her of postponing it in order to maintain power.
Although May has no legal duty to comply, and has very recent precedents for last-minute U-turns, her spokesperson stated that she would do so in the “spirit” of an amendment passed by MPs earlier this year. The date is enshrined in the EU withdrawal act, which gives MPs a meaningful vote on the terms of Brexit.
“We will be keeping with the spirit of the act, and by doing so the government will ensure that the withdrawal agreement is brought back to the house before 21 January,” May’s spokesperson said.
Refusing to rule out the vote taking place in the days leading up to Christmas, the spokesperson said: “We want to ensure we work as quickly as possible to resolve this. Clearly what we will be guided by is getting the reassurances that the house needs.”
Parliament is due to sit until December 21.
An increasingly desperate May has left the country to undertake a whistle-stop tour of European capitals. The embattled PM is hoping to garner further concessions from the EU, chiefly around the issue of the Northern Irish backstop.
While Downing Street has not ruled out attempting to renegotiate the deal, the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker unceremoniously rejected the option, stating there was ‘no room whatsoever’ to reopen the talks and that the backstop must stay within the agreement.
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