According to initial reporting by the UK's Telegraph, Tory and Labour MPs have a plan to delay the final Brexit date by "several months" if Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal agreement fails a parliamentary vote, in a bid to undermine PM May's bid to 'bleed the clock' on Brexit in an effort to force no voters into her camp by withholding the key vote until too close to Brexit day to allow naysayers time to scrape together a new plan.
Cross-party talks have been under way for several weeks to ensure the 29 March date is put back – probably until July at the latest – if the government does not push for a delay itself. It is also understood that cabinet ministers have discussed the option of a delay with senior backbench MPs in both the main parties and that Downing Street is considering scenarios in which a delay might have to be requested from Brussels.
One senior Tory backbencher said: “I have had these discussions with ministers. They will not say so in public but of course the option of a delay has to be looked at in detail now. If we are determined to avoid a no deal, and the prime minister’s deal fails, we will have to ask to stop the clock, and that will give time for us to decide to go whatever way we decide thereafter.”
Any attempt to push back Brexit would anger hardline Brexiters in the European Research Group, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg. But most MPs think it would be supported by a majority in parliament to avoid a cliff-edge exit.
In the week before Christmas Starmer told the Commons: “I do agree that serious consideration needs to be given to the timetable now set by article 50, because by 14 January we will be just nine weeks away from the proposed date of leaving the EU. On any view, the government will then have to make a choice about what to do next. No plan B has ever been forthcoming.”
Labour is not, yet, officially calling for a delay but is biding its time to see what happens when parliament returns in the second week in January.
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