Number 10 has denied plans to delay Brexit and call a general election in June, while Theresa May vowed to ‘battle for Britain’ in Brussels despite the EU telling her there was no chance of renegotiation.
Plans have reportedly been drawn up to extend Article 50 – the clause which triggered the UK’s withdrawal from the EU – then secure the backing of parliament for a new Brexit deal in April before calling a general election in June this year.
A report in the Mail on Sunday said May’s team are planning an election for June 6 – the 75th anniversary of D-Day – to protect the PM from being forced out of office by those who want a new leader – but Downing Street denied this was the case. Instead, May said she was listening to figures from across politics, the trade union movement and business in her quest for a feasible Brexit compromise and said: ‘It’s why when I return to Brussels I will be battling for Britain and Northern Ireland.’ Theresa May needs to go back to Brussels to renegotiate her deal – but the EU so far aren’t budging.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the PM said she will be ‘armed with a fresh mandate, new ideas and a renewed determination’ when she meets with EU leaders next week despite repeatedly being told her deal is not up for discussion.
She said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had agreed with her that the Irish border backstop as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement had to change, despite the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier saying the backstop will not be removed.
‘Although Jeremy Corbyn didn’t vote with us, he also believes the potential indefinite nature of the backstop is an issue that needs to be addressed with Brussels,’ May said. ‘That is exactly what I’m doing.’ Last week May secured Parliament’s backing to go back to Brussels in the hope of hammering out a fresh agreement that does not include the Irish border backstop – which is unacceptable to the DUP and Brexiteer Tories – and which will command a majority in the Commons.
Trade minister Liam Fox this morning told Sky News that the EU refusing to reopen Brexit talks was ‘irresponsible’.
The Prime Minister is due to report back to Parliament on her negotiations with the EU on February 13, with a further series of votes by MPs expected the following day.
Downing Street has denied reports that plans are in place to delay Brexit and call a general election in June.
A new opinion poll out today suggested the Tories have moved into a seven-point lead over Labour.
The Opinium poll for the Observer found that Corbyn’s party had fallen from 40 per cent to 34 per cent since the key Commons votes on the mechanics of Brexit took place, falling behind the Tories who went from 37 per cent to 41 per cent.
Public approval of Corbyn’s personal handling of Brexit also fell to a new low of just 16 per cent from 18 per cent two weeks ago. His disapproval rating is 61 per cent and he has support from little more than four in 10 Labour voters, according to the poll. Last week Corbyn called for a snap general election during a visit to charities in Glasgow. He said: ‘The people who are bearing the brunt of nine years of austerity cannot wait years for a general election.’ British PM May says no-deal vote ‘
On Saturday, leaked papers suggested Whitehall could be ‘overwhelmed’ by no-deal Brexit with the Department for Transport (DfT) unable to cope with more than two emergencies at once.
The Times said the Government made the admission in a document seen by its reporters that formed part of a contingency plan called Operation Yellowhammer.
It reportedly states that in the wake of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal, for months after, the Government may have to engage in a 24/7 emergency approach.
Priorities in the event of a no-deal will be ‘welfare, health, transport and security of UK citizens at home and abroad, and the economic stability of the UK’.
The 37-page document, which sets out a guide to working in the DfT operations centre, also states that the ‘scale of the operation is potentially enormous’, according to the Times. A senior Tory Brexiteer today warned that there is ‘trouble ahead’ for the Prime Minister, suggesting what she will seek from Brussels to get a Brexit deal will not win her backbench support.
European Research Group deputy chairman Steve Baker suggested that Theresa May was seeking something that was no more than a ‘codicil’ instead of getting the EU to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.
He tweeted after Theresa May wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that she would seek an alternative, or time-limiting changes, to the Irish border backstop. He wrote: ‘Trouble ahead. Leave-backing MPs voted to support alternative arrangements in NI but with grave misgivings about the whole agreement. ‘Now the PM co-opts us into accepting everything but the backstop and, on the backstop, accepting a codicil.’