Tory rebel Grieve calls for Brexit pause if vote defeated
A key Conservative Party rebel has said Brexit should be delayed if Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal deal is defeated in parliament on Tuesday.
Dominic Grieve, who tabled an amendment that defeated the government on Wednesday, said May could take the March 29 exit date off the table and request more time from the EU to come up with an alternative plan.
May's deal seems set for a defeat in the House of Commons, with up to 100 Conservative MPs ready to vote against it. Grieve's successful amendment means the prime minister must return to parliament with a new proposal within three days.
"I believe the EU will extend Article 50 for us but I think they would only do it in a very limited number of circumstances ... and we need to explore what those circumstances may be," Grieve said.
"I think the options are very limited and the reality in my view is that the only way out of this difficulty is go back to the public and ask for their opinion."
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that the possibility of Brexit not happening at all had increased, calling the current situation "paralysis" with parliament showing this week it would not accept leaving without a deal.
This would be an "incredibly damaging breach of trust and it would also be very bad for Britain's reputation abroad", he said.
EU OFFERS HELP BUT NO NEW TALKS
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, speaking in Romania for the start of the country’s six-month presidency of the European council, said the EU would try to help May win more votes for her deal but reiterated there could be no reopening of negotiations.
“We, the commission and I, are in touch on a constant basis with No 10 Downing Street and we will see what happens between now and Tuesday,” he said.
“We will see what the British legislature decides to do with the texts that have been put forward. I still hope that here will be a deal. I do not like the prospect of a no deal, which would be a disaster, I think, for our British friends and for the continent of Europeans. And every effort needs to be made between now and Tuesday afternoon perhaps to ensure that this important issue can be resolved satisfactorily.”
"What we have said very clearly in council and commission, in full harmony, was that there can be no renegotiation, there can be clarification. But that’s all we are discussing with Downing Street what these clarifications might amount to, that should not confused with a renegotiation with regards to the backstop. Aside from these remarks I think it would be unwise to go into the ongoing discussions.”
Meanwhile, earlier on Friday Cabinet ministers reportedly said the March 29 date was likely to be delayed due to a backlog of parliamentary business.
A number of essential bills need to be passed in order for the UK to leave the EU, unnamed ministers told the Evening Standard newspaper, including on immigration, trade, financial services, agriculture, fisheries and healthcare.
One said it was "hard to see how we can get all the legislation through by March 29", while others said that most of the Cabinet support the idea of "staging indicative votes in the Commons to see if a different Brexit plan is supported".
A Downing Street spokeswoman denied the report.
As the deadline ticks closer, businesses and trade associations have been queueing up in recent days to warn about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.
UK economic growth would fall by up to 8% if the country exited the EU without a deal, the Confederation of British Industry warned on Friday, with director general Carolyn Fairbairn saying the dangers of crashing out of bloc would be “profound, widespread and lasting”.
On Thursday, against a background of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn calling for a general election to "break the deadlock" over Brexit, the four main farmers’ unions sent a letter to MPs warning of the dangerous implications for domestic food supply and management of the countryside.