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May 24, 2019

May postpones her final Brexit showdown

Top Story

May 24, 2019

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May has shelved plans to introduce key Brexit legislation to implement the Withdrawal Agreement in the first week of June following a major backlash from MPs.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill had been expected to be published today and be debated by MPs in the week beginning June 3, when they return after the Whitsun recess.But government whip Mark Spencer, announcing forthcoming business in the Commons, said: “We will update the House on the publication and introduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on our return from the Whitsun recess.”

Spencer was deputising at business questions following the resignation of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, who left the government in protest at May’s plans for the Brexit legislation.Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz said the country is in “Brexit paralysis” and asked why the Bill had been pulled.

She said: “Yesterday the Prime Minister told the House that the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would be in the week commencing June 3; now we hear it’s not — so in less than 24 hours the Prime Minister has broken her word. This is yet another broken promise by the Prime Minister on Brexit.”

Accusing the PM of putting her “own political survival ahead of the national interest”, she added: “Doesn’t he agree with me that the Prime Minister has become part of the problem? Even her own Cabinet ministers know she must go.”Spencer said the government does intend to publish the Bill in the week beginning June 3.

He added that the government had hoped to hold the second reading on Friday June 7 but “at the moment we’ve not secured agreement to this in the usual channels”. The “usual channels” describes the behind-the-scenes talks between the whips’ offices and leaderships from the government and different parties.

The remaining stages of the Wild Animals in Circuses (No 2) Bill will take place on Tuesday June 4, with the rest of the week filled up with backbench matters, including debates on the Grenfell Tower fire, and “mortgage prisoners and vulture funds”.

SNP Westminster leader Pete Wishart joked about Leadsom’s replacement, telling MPs: “Who’d want the job anyway? We’ve a Prime Minister hanging on by her fingertips, barricaded into Number 10, and a government collapsing around her ears as we speak.”

He added: “We were promised the Withdrawal Agreement Bill for the Tuesday and Wednesday we return. Unless it’s been renamed the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill — which is quite likely — I’m afraid I’m not seeing it anywhere on this order paper.”

Spencer said: “We are hoping to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week commencing June 3 and during discussions with the usual channels we’ll see when that comes forward. At the moment, we’ve not secured agreement through those usual channels and we’ll update the House when we return after recess.”

Tory MP Peter Bone (Wellingborough) said: “There is some speculation, how remote, that the Prime Minister might resign tomorrow. What mechanism is there to recall the House, because surely it should be up to the House on whether it is recalled during the recess, not the government.” Spencer replied: “There is currently no plans to recall the House at any point in the future.” Meanwhile, Theresa May has been urged by Cabinet colleagues to scrap her heavily criticised Brexit legislation as speculation mounted about her future.

The Prime Minister was involved in a “frank” discussion with Home Secretary Sajid Javid, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt made clear he did not believe her Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) could get through the Commons.

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