MPs racing to stop a no-deal Brexit could force Theresa May to hand back control to parliament in mid-March if the UK is still on course to crash out.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, with a cross-party alliance that includes Tory Sir Oliver Letwin, is aiming to carve out parliamentary time for a Brexit plan B, which could see Article 50 suspended and leaving the bloc delayed.
The government is due to table a motion by February 25 setting out the next steps on Brexit, with the PM trying to renegotiate her Brexit deal with the EU so that it will be acceptable to Tory hardliners and the DUP.
Cooper has said if May fails to present a viable plan then she and others will try to amend that motion and ask MPs to back her private members’ bill plan.
The Labour MP, whose plan has the backing of Tory Caroline Spelman and fellow influential Labour backbencher Jack Dromey, said her bill is a “parliamentary safeguard to prevent us drifting into no-deal by accident”.
It comes after Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom said the final meaningful vote could take place with just days to spare before the UK is due to leave the EU on March 29.
Cooper said: “The Prime Minister needs to get a workable deal in place quickly and she has asked for more time. But there is a real danger of endless drift so if she can’t get a deal in place by February 26, our cross party group will put forward this bill at that point to ensure that crucial decisions are made by the middle of March.”
She added: “I want to see a workable deal in place, but I am deeply worried about us drifting into no-deal by accident, given the serious warnings from top police chiefs, businesses, trade unions and medical experts, and the Prime Minister is running out of time. We have a responsibility to make sure there is a common sense safeguard in place.”
Letwin, said: “Any MP who genuinely wants to prevent an under-prepared no-deal Brexit will need to vote for this bill at the end of February. It is the only way of giving the House of Commons the time to produce a consensus about a positive way forward if the PM cannot get her deal through by mid-March.”
It comes after MPs rejected Cooper’s first attempt to secure a parliamentary get-out to no-deal in the days after May’s original Brexit proposal was rejected in January.
An amendment to her plan B Brexit by Spelman and Dromey, which said MPs would refuse to accept no-deal, won approval. It was not, however, legally-binding.
The pair have now released a joint statement supporting Cooper’s plan.
“The people voted to leave the European Union and that referendum result must be honoured,” they said. “However, as we leave, it is critical that jobs are protected and our economy safeguarded.”
They added: “The bill does not seek to block Brexit, but rather would ensure parliament has the tools and capacity it needs to agree a deal that safeguards jobs and ensures the UK’s orderly departure from the EU.
“Parliament voted no to no-deal. The Cooper-Letwin bill is a necessary safeguard that will protect our country from plunging over the cliff on March 29 without a deal.”