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Brexit: Government plans to hold new vote

Theresa May speaking in the Commons on 27 March

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UK Parliament/Mark Duffy

MPs will vote again on Brexit on Friday but it is not clear whether it will be another “meaningful vote” on the PM’s withdrawal deal.

Asked whether the motion would be the “full package”, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said discussion was “ongoing”.

There is speculation that MPs might be asked to vote on the withdrawal agreement but not the further “political declaration”.

Labour said that would lead to the “blindest of blind Brexits”.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said both European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had stressed that the withdrawal agreement and political declaration – outlining how UK-EU trade, security and other issues could work – were part of the same “negotiated package”.

He said to separate them “would mean leaving the EU with absolutely no idea where we are heading … we wouldn’t vote for that”.

The PM’s deal includes a withdrawal agreement – setting out how much money the UK must pay to the EU as a settlement, details of the transition period, and the backstop arrangements – and a political declaration on the way the future EU-UK relationship will work.

Previous “meaningful votes” on the deal involved both the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration but Speaker John Bercow has said he would not allow a third “meaningful vote” on “substantially the same” motion as MPs had already rejected by historic margins twice.

The EU has said the PM’s deal must be approved by MPs by the end of this week, if Brexit is to be delayed until 22 May.

Announcing the government’s intention to table a motion for debate on Friday, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said there would be a motion put forward later “relating to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.”

“The motion tabled will comply with the Speaker’s ruling but the only way we ensure we leave in good time on May 22 is by approving the Withdrawal Agreement by 11pm on March 29, which is tomorrow.

“The European Council has agreed to an extension until May 22 provided the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons this week.

“It’s crucial we make every effort to give effect to that and to allow the House to debate this important issue.”

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Her Labour shadow Valerie Vaz asked for “further clarity… on whether this is in fact the meaningful vote three?”

Mrs Leadsom said the motion would be tabled “as soon as possible” and discussions were “ongoing”.

On Wednesday, the Commons failed to find a majority for a way forward after voting for eight different options on Wednesday.

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The PM won some support for her plan by saying she would resign ahead of the next round of EU negotiations if her deal passes, and is continuing discussions with colleagues throughout the day.

But although the prime minister has won over the likes of former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, a number of hardcore Brexiteers are still refusing to vote for the deal. And the MPs she relies on in the DUP remain opposed to it.

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said he still believed it is still possible to get concessions from the EU on the deal, but if the bloc does not move, there should be “sensible conversations” around no-deal.

What happened last night?

MPs voted to seize power of the Commons on Wednesday and put forward a series of options to take Brexit forward – including leaving without a deal, creating a customs union and backing a confirmatory referendum on any deal.

But after several hours of debate, none of the eight options emerged as a front runner among MPs.

Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin, who oversaw the unprecedented process of “indicative votes”, said the lack of a majority for any proposition was “disappointing”.

But he told the Today programme no “assumptions” should be made about the outcome of further indicative votes, which he believes should take place on Monday if the PM’s deal is not approved this week.

The EU Commission’s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said the bloc fully respected the process, but added: “We counted eight nos last night, now we need a yes on the way forward.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s debate, Mrs May told a meeting of Conservative backbenchers that she would not lead the talks with Brussels over the future relationship between the UK and EU.

She would resign as party leader after 22 May – the new Brexit date – if her deal was passed, but stay on as PM until a new leader is elected.

However, Downing Street said it would be a “different ball game” if the deal was not passed.

Brexit: Government plans to hold new vote}

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