UK’s May fends off demands to delay Brexit or rule out “no deal”
Robert Stevens and Chris Marsden
30 January 2019
With less than two months to go before Britain’s scheduled exit from the European Union (EU), Prime Minister Theresa May swung most of her hard Brexit wing and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) behind her with a promise to seek renegotiation of the Irish backstop.
This and divisions within the Labour Party over either delaying Brexit or seeking a second referendum, or both, gave the day to the Conservative government though this could prove to be a pyrrhic and very short-lived victory.
May suffered an initial cross-party rejection of the deal she negotiated with the EU by a record majority of 230 on January 15, as hard-Brexit Tories and the DUP’s 10 MPs voted with the opposition because they disagreed with proposals for Northern Ireland to remain in a de facto customs union with the EU to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
May responded by promising to seek further concessions and assurances from the EU and scheduling yesterday’s vote on any modified agreement. However, May was unable to secure any substantial change, leaving MPs to back a short technical motion that they had considered last week’s statement. Attention therefore focused on seven amendments to the motion chosen to go forward to votes by House of Commons speaker John Bercow.
Labour’s official amendment advancing its Brexit policy—seeking to avoid a “no deal” and maintain some form of customs union with the EU—was bound to fail as no Tory would vote for it.
This left the most important vote for Labour the one proposed by Blairite Labour MP Yvette Cooper calling for a mandatory extension of Article 50 if May failed to secure a deal by late…