POLITICS
08/02/2019 18:03 GMT | Updated 08/02/2019 18:11 GMT

MPs Poised To Launch Fresh Move To Delay Brexit And Block No-Deal

'Cooper amendment mark II' could be fronted by different MPs.

MPs are poised to launch a fresh attempt to delay Brexit and block a no-deal when the Commons votes on Theresa May’s strategy in next week’s Valentine’s Day showdown.

A Tory ex-minister and senior Labour MP involved in cross-party talks said it was “highly likely” and that there was a “substantial consensus” there will be another vote on an amendment designed to give parliament the power to stop a no-deal Brexit.

The first such attempt to extend Article 50, led by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Tory Nick Boles, was defeated by 23 votes last month amid a rebellion by Leave-backing MPs in Jeremy Corbyn’s party.

But with exit day on March 29 approaching rapidly and no sign of a deal being agreed, MPs have been locked in talks on how to prevent May running down the clock.

The Labour MP said there was a “great deal of discussion going on” about how to win at the second attempt.

One proposal involves getting two different MPs be the new faces of the amendment in an attempt to widen support, according to separate Labour sources.

And the original plan to extend Article 50 for nine months would almost certainly be dropped, with one source suggesting a three-month delay was more likely.

Meanwhile, the Labour MP said he believed the Commons will this time pass a so-called Cooper mark II amendment, after Tory minister Stephen Hammond suggested he could quit to back it if he thought it was the last chance to block no-deal.

Several separate sources stressed that plans for an amendment had not been finalise. Some MPs are said to be arguing to delay any vote until May comes back with her revised Brexit deal.

But the Labour MP said: “Next week the focus will be on establishing that Theresa May cannot take the country over the cliff, that therefore goes to process.

“That is still being talked through about how best that’s done but there is a substantial consensus that that will be done.”

They added: “I think the will of the House will be supportive this time around.”

The Tory ex-minister said: “Yvette is doing some work on amendments and of course what actually happens is at least in part dependent on what the prime minister has to say when she comes back to the House.

“I think it’s highly likely that we will end up with some sort of amendment next week.”

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A cross-party group of MPs led by Yvette Cooper failed to block no-deal in a vote last month

Some of the MPs involved in the anti-no-deal plot are also said to be considering whether they should try and force the government into backing a customs union with the EU to solve the vexed Irish border backstop issue and maintain frictionless trade.

One source stressed however that was a battle to be fought further down the line – if pressure from Jeremy Corbyn, cross-party talks with the government, and Brussels’ refusal to drop the backstop failed to soften May’s opposition to a customs union.

Suggestions that 40 ministers could quit the government could to vote for the Cooper amendment the first time around proved unfounded.

But the Labour MP insisted many so-called payroll Tories support the plan and could back a cross-party compromise Brexit settlement involving a customs union.

“No one should underestimate just how difficult it will be,” they said.

“But there are those Tory colleagues who are already out in the open with us, there are those who are still in government who have made their view abundantly clear - Greg Clark, Amber Rudd, Richard Harrington.

“There are many more who are completely exasperated with their government, including a significant number of cabinet, ministers, PPSs, who have stayed in government but have said to me - this nonsense, the sooner we exhaust it the better, so that we can then get on to serious ground about genuinely reaching a compromise agreement that can command the confidence of the House and that will protect the British national interest.”