Brexit: Theresa May to offer MPs new round of votes amid accusations she's 'running down the clock'
Labour vowed to stop the prime minister 'running down the clock' to exit day in March
Communities secretary James Brokenshire said a new motion would be put before the Commons by February 27, if no deal has been agreed, in a bid to win the prime minister time to hammer out a compromise after MPs overwhelmingly rejected her plan last month.
MPs have been gearing up for a Valentine’s Day showdown, assuming Ms May is unable to present a revised deal to parliament by Wednesday, including a push by Labour to force her into a meaningful vote by the end of the month.
But in an effort to see off attempts to bind the government's hands, Downing Street is promising another opportunity to table amendments - which are likely to include measures aimed at taking a no-deal Brexit off the table - on February 27.
The move is aimed at postponing a rebellion by ministers who are committed to removing the possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on March 29.
But there is no commitment to hold a binding vote on the deal itself by the end of the month.
Mr Brokenshire told The Andrew Marr Show: “I think that gives that sense of timetable, clarity and purpose on what we are doing with the EU – taking that work forward and our determination to get a deal – but equally knowing that role that parliament very firmly has.”
It comes as Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would stop the prime minister “running down the clock” to exit day in March, by drafting an amendment to compel her to offer a vote by the end of February.
And Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson were poised to launch a new push for a second referendum, writing in The Independent: “It would also be reckless to accept the withdrawal agreement without the approval of the British people.”
Both bids are expected to be among the range of amendments tabled for votes on Valentine’s Day.
Ms May flew to Brussels, Belfast and Dublin last week to hold last-ditch talks after MPs ordered her to replace the divisive Irish backstop with an alternative plan.
But she was met with stony opposition from EU leaders, who have repeatedly said that the Brexit deal cannot be renegotiated.
The shadow Brexit secretary said Labour was determined to prevent the prime minister from taking Britain to the brink of a no-deal Brexit.
“We have got to put a hard stop into this running down the clock,” Sir Keir told The Sunday Times. “And that’s what we want to do this week.”
He accused Ms May of “pretending to make progress” and said she intends to return to parliament after a crunch European Council summit the week before Brexit and offer MPs a “binary choice” – her deal or no deal.
“We can’t allow that to happen,” Sir Keir said. “There needs to be a day when parliament says that’s it, enough is enough.”
Meanwhile, Labour backbenchers Mr Kyle and Mr Wilson have come up with a plan to back Ms May’s deal if she offers a referendum once it passes through parliament.
Writing for The Independent, the pair said: “We believe that to leave the decision to 650 MPs and the unelected House of Lords smacks of the accusation of elitism levelled against politicians during the referendum campaign.
“The right and proper step to take is for MPs and the Lords to approve the prime minister’s deal followed by a confirmatory vote of the British people.
“We believe this process started with the people and should end with the people.”
A new version is also being drawn up of a plan by Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory Nick Boles to extend Article 50 to prevent a disorderly exit in March.
It comes after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to Ms May setting out his party’s terms for backing a Brexit deal, which include backing a customs union with the EU.
However chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss twice refused to rule out quitting if Ms May accepted the demand for a customs union.
She told Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I appreciate Jeremy Corbyn has come to the table but the reality is what he is proposing does not deliver on what we want as a country.”
Asked if she could stay in office if the government backed a customs union, she said: “I absolutely do not think that should be our policy.”