THERESA MAY admitted there was still too little support among MPs for her Brexit deal as she told them she would not be holding another vote on it today.
The prime minister said she would keep trying to win over the doubters in the hope of getting the agreement through at the third time of asking later this week.
MPs defied her by agreeing to chart their own course out of the Brexit mire with a series of indicative votes.
But Mrs May said, while she would ‘engage’ with efforts to find an outcome they could all agree on, she would not be bound by the results of the ballots.
She claimed the only options were leaving the EU with her deal, leaving with no deal or going for a ‘slow Brexit’ that would prolong the political agony.
The prime minister said a no-deal withdrawal on April 12 was the ‘default option’ if the deal was rejected. And she said if MPs were ‘not prepared to countenance that’, she would have to ask the EU this week for a longer delay.
‘This would entail the UK having to hold European elections,’ she told them yesterday. ‘It would mean that we will not have been able to guarantee Brexit. I hope we can all agree that we are now at the moment of decision.’
In a historic vote last night, MPs voted to wrest control of parliament’s timetable by holding the indicative ballots on Brexit options tomorrow.
The government told Tories to oppose the plan but it passed by 27 votes.
A government spokesman warned afterwards: ‘This amendment upends the balance between our democratic institutions and sets a dangerous unpredictable precedent for the future.
‘While it is now up to Parliament to set out next steps, the government will continue to call for realism – any options must be deliverable in negotiations with the EU.
‘Parliament should take account of how long these negotiations would take and if they would require a longer extension which would mean holding European parliamentary elections.’
Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, business minister Richard Harrington and health minister Steve Brine all quit their posts so they could go against Mrs May’s wishes and back the plan.
Mr Harrington wrote in his letter of resignation: ‘At this critical moment in our country’s history, I regret that the government’s approach to Brexit is playing roulette with the lives of the vast majority of people in this country.’
Another plan, which would have empowered MPs to veto a no-deal if Britain came within a week of crashing out, was quashed by just three votes.
Mrs May had been expected to call a vote on her deal today after holding talks with Tory Brexiteers over the weekend to try to win them round.
But she was dealt a blow when her allies in Northern Ireland’s DUP announced they would be continuing to oppose the agreement.
There had been speculation that the party might change its stance but leader Arlene Foster told the prime minister the bad news in a phone call yesterday morning.
After Mrs May suggested there would not be a no-deal unless MPs agreed, Tory Leaver Crispin Blunt accused her of ‘the most shameful surrender by a British leader since Singapore in 1942’.
And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said her handling of Brexit was a ‘national embarrassment’. ‘She cannot both accept that her deal does not have the numbers and stand in the way of finding an alternative,’ he added.
Brussels ramps up no-deal rhetoric
A NO-DEAL Brexit on April 12 is now ‘increasingly likely’, the EU has said.
The European Commission ramped up its rhetoric yesterday as it said it had completed preparations for Britain crashing out without a deal, leaving member states ‘united’ and ‘ready’ for such an outcome.
But the EU said despite the planning, a sharp UK exit without an agreement was still ‘not desirable’ and there were likely to be major delays at borders, along with ‘significant disruption for citizens and businesses’.
In a statement, the commission said Britons would also be likely to wait for longer at airports, ports and at Eurostar terminals because they would no longer be able to use EU passport queues and would need their documents stamped, face additional customs restrictions and may be questioned by border guards. A spokeswoman said in the event of a ‘no-deal’ the EU would ‘immediately apply its rules and tariffs at its borders with the UK’.
The commission said a ‘no-deal’ will mean British holidaymakers would see the return of duty-free and the right to claim VAT refunds on goods bought in the EU but will no longer be able to use European Health Insurance Cards.