Brexit: MPs launch bid to seize control from Theresa May with votes on all options including new referendum
A cross-party alliance - tabled by Labour's Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper, and Tory grandee Oliver Letwin - seeks to force the “indicative votes”, even as the prime minister makes a third attempt to pass her battered deal, while threatening MPs with a long delay to Brexit if they refuse.
The Commons will vote on a Final Say referendum on leaving the EU, or staying in the EU customs union and single market, among other options, if – as seems likely – the key amendment passes later today.
“During the days ahead, in the next week, I hope there will be a series of votes, including on the prime minister’s deal,” he told ITV’s Peston programme
“I think that the prime minister and parliament should promote a sense of parliament establishing what there is a big majority for.”
More than 70 MPs have already signed the amendment - including Nicholas Soames, Nick Boles, Antoinette Sandbach, Dominic Grieve and Caroline Spelman - with the aim of a day of debate next Wednesday, ahead of votes soon after.
The move, and a blizzard of other amendments, threatens the prime minister with further defeats – one day after her humiliation over the no-deal veto.
The Independent Group hopes to push for a new referendum, with the option to Remain, but cannot succeed unless the vast majority of Labour MPs support it.
The Labour frontbench has sent out mixed signals in the last 24 hours – Jeremy Corbyn’s aide backtracking, while Keir Starmer, his Brexit secretary, said he was “proud” to be backing a further referendum.
However, a Tory amendment, with 13 Labour supporters says a public vote “would be divisive and expensive, and therefore should not take place”.
Labour’s own amendment does not address the controversy, simply urging the prime minister “to provide parliamentary time for this House to find a majority for a different approach”.
Talks are ongoing with the Democratic Unionist Party in the hope of persuading the party that – despite Mr Cox’s devastating advice this week – there is an escape route from the Irish backstop.
The European Research Group (ERG) of Tory Brexiteers appears split, some ready to get behind the deal while Steve Baker, its vice-chairman, said “come what may, we will continue to vote down this deal”.
Mr Hammond said Mr Cox’s advice was “clearly very important”, adding: “I'm sure the attorney-general will want to consider very carefully all the evidence and opinion.”
The chancellor said he was “certain” MPs will vote for an Article 50 extension later, with the prime minister warning delay until about June will only be possible if her deal passes by next Wednesday.
Otherwise, she told MPs, EU leaders will insist on a much longer extension – and the UK would have to take part in May’s European Parliament elections.