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PM urged to ditch Brexit talks with Labour and move to indicative votes

UK News | Published:

Education Secretary Damian Hinds also expressed support for finding a ‘stable majority’.

Prime Minister’s Questions

The Prime Minister has been urged to ditch Brexit talks with Labour and move to indicative votes by Cabinet Ministers.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is said to be among those who have lost faith with the plan to strike a cross-party deal, which the Times reports he believes is a “false premise”.

And her husband Philip May is said to be seeking a “dignified exit” for his wife, having been her “rock”, encouraging her to hold out against calls for her to go for many months.

Prime Minister Theresa May at church
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves with husband Philip after attending a church near her Maidenhead constituency (Steve Parsons/PA)

Cabinet Ministers who want her to move to Plan B are understood to include DWP Secretary Amber Rudd, Justice Secretary David Gauke and Business Secretary Greg Clarke.

Mr Hammond’s parliamentary aide Hugh Merriman, who supports another referednum as a way of carrying out Brexit, told BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour his party will do badly in the European Parliament elections later this month.

He told Carolyn Quinn: “The public will blame the Conservative Government because we were the party that brought forward the referendum. And so for those that didn’t want it and wanted Remain they’ll blame us for having tried to take us out.

“And for those that voted to leave they’ll blame us for having not got the country out of the EU. We’re at the perfect storm so yes I think we’ll get an absolute mauling.”

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Education Secretary Damian Hinds expressed support for finding a “stable majority” by allowing MPs to vote on different options.

“If we can’t do a deal with Labour we need to throw pour weight behind indicative votes,” a Government source said, adding moves to step up no-deal planning would be resisted.

“How can we campaign against the Brexit Party if their campaign for a no-deal Brexit is our contingency plan?

“Nothing better sums up the ludicrousness of our situation than that.”

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(left to right) Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Business Secretary Greg Clark, David Gauke, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, arrive for a meeting at 10 Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The shift within the Conservatives appears to be matched by a hardening of the Labour Party stance, with Sir Keir Starmer warning up to 150 Labour MPs would reject a Brexit deal that fails to include a confirmatory referendum.

Sir Keir said he would not be afraid to pull the plug on talks as early as this week if Mrs May did not budge on her red lines, saying “I do think we do probably in the coming days need to make that assessment”.

The shadow Brexit secretary gave the warning that more than two-thirds of the party’s 229 MPs could reject a deal in his first major interview since talks with the Government began almost five weeks ago.

Speaking to the Guardian ahead of another meeting on Monday, Sir Keir said he doubted any agreement that was not set to be ratified by a public vote would pass through Parliament.

“A significant number of Labour MPs, probably 120 if not 150, would not back a deal if it hasn’t got a confirmatory vote,” he said.

“If the point of the exercise is to get a sustainable majority, over several weeks or months of delivering on the implementation, you can’t leave a confirmatory vote out of the package.

“I’ve made it clear that at this stage, at this 11th hour, any deal that comes through from this Government ought to be subject to the lock of a confirmatory vote.”

Brexit
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey arrive at the Cabinet Office in Westminster (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The issue of a confirmatory referendum has been an internal battleground within Labour ranks, with Sir Keir pushing for one but shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, also part of the negotiating team, less keen.

But Sir Keir highlighted how the party lost 200 lost seats in this month’s council elections, which he said were a sign Labour was losing the trust of Remain as well as Leave voters.

With less than two weeks before the European elections, the shadow Brexit secretary urged Labour Remainers tempted to vote for the Lib Dems or Change UK that only Jeremy Corbyn’s party could deliver a fresh referendum.

“There is concern in leave areas about whether some of our voters might vote for other parties, but I think there is an increasing concern that some of the Labour Remain voters might not vote Labour,” he said.

“It is very important that we learn those lessons.”

Centre of Excellence for Human Security announcement
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson during a visit to Salisbury Plains Training Area (Steve Parsons/PA)

And on Sunday, Gavin Williamson described Mrs May’s Brexit talks with Labour as a “grave mistake”.

The former defence secretary, who was sacked over the Huawei leak, said pressing ahead with the talks will have “fatal” consequences.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he labelled Mrs May as “politically naive” for going into fruitless negotiations which he claimed were bound to fail.

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May has come under fire from Gavin Williamson (Steve Parsons/PA)

The former Cabinet minister had estimated there were “up to 80” Labour rebels who want another referendum and predicted a “number of defeats”.

Urging Mrs May to ditch talks, he said: “The Prime Minister needs to recognise that futile efforts to pull off this Labour deal are damaging us all.

“It is a grave mistake for any Prime Minister to fail to recognise when a plan will not work and it is fatal to press on regardless.

“We need to accept that these talks with Labour are fruitless and that not only will they not deliver the Brexit that people voted for, they are a betrayal of the direct instructions the people gave us in 2016 and 2017.”

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