Theresa May has said she is still working to secure new assurances from the EU on her Brexit deal in a bid to win over MPs, as opposition parties rallied around attempts to stop a no-deal Brexit.
A parliamentary bid to block a no-deal Brexit was given a boost after Labour said it would whip MPs to support an amendment from backbencher Yvette Cooper, which would force the government to seek approval before making Brexit-related tax changes.
Ms Cooper said the amendment “gives us the chance to rule out the worst outcome”.
The government has committed to holding a vote on Mrs May’s Brexit deal next week despite continued doubts over whether it can pass the Commons, with the vote likely to take place on next Tuesday.
The Prime Minister, who spoke to six European leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the Christmas holiday, said the government was “continuing to work on further assurances” on the issue of the controversial Irish border backstop.
Yesterday she said more detail would be set out ahead of next week’s vote on giving MPs a say over when the UK would leave the backstop, which would come into effect to keep Northern Ireland under EU rules if there is no trade deal between London and Brussels by the end of 2020.
London and Brussels are also understood to be in talks about an exchange of letters setting the end of 2021 as the target for a trade deal, meaning the backstop would be limited to just one year.
But with just 80 days until Brexit, preparations for a no-deal outcome have continued to accelerate. Downing Street announced a new 21-strong Cabinet sub-committee including the Secretary of State for Scotland is being formed to take charge of decision-making on no-deal Brexit contingencies, and future trade planning.
In an urgent question in the Commons, Jeremy Corbyn told the government there can be “no more running away” from the meaningful vote on Brexit.
The Labour leader said ministers were “fooling nobody” with preparations for no-deal, and said Mrs May would not be allowed to run down the clock to secure support for her Brexit deal.
After previous plans for a vote in December were cancelled the day before it was due to happen, Mr Corbyn asked Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay for a guarantee that “faced with yet another humiliating defeat that the Prime Minister won’t just run away”.
More than 200 MPs from across the Commons have been invited to Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister today after signing a letter calling on her to rule out no-deal.
The letter was organised by two West Midlands MPs, the Tory Dame Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey. Ms Spelman warned that “crashing out of the EU without a deal will cause job losses”.
Meanwhile, the NFU Scotland claimed that a no-deal Brexit could turn the UK into a “third-world country” in terms of the security of its food supply.
The organisation’s president Andrew McCornick said leaving the EU without a deal would result in a “knee-jerk reaction to bring food in from anywhere, and definitely not at [EU] standards.”
Mr McCornick said Scottish farmers would be put “competitively at a disadvantage” and warned of “panic buying”.