‘FOLLOWING last week’s vote, it is clear that the government’s approach had to change, and it has,’ Tory PM Theresa May insisted, coming back to House of Commons yesterday with her ‘Plan B’ after her historic 202-432 defeat last week – the biggest in Parliament’s history.
May announced that the £65 fee that EU citizens are required to pay to gain ‘settled status’ and remain in the UK after Brexit will be waived. She then set out all the parties she had joint talks with last week, which included everyone except Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
She said: ‘Given the importance of this issue, we should all be prepared to work together to find a way forward.’ Talking about the meetings she said: ‘First there is wide spread concern about the UK leaving without a deal, and there are those on both sides of the House who want the government to rule this out.
‘But we need to be honest with the British people about what that means. The right way to rule out a no-deal is for this House to approve the deal with the European Union. ‘The only other guaranteed way to avoid a no-deal Brexit is to revoke Article 50 which would mean staying in the EU.
‘I believe that would go against the referendum result and do not believe that is the course of action that we should take or which this House should support.’
Labour leader Corbyn said: ‘No more phoney talks. The government still appears not to have come to terms with the scale of the defeat in the House of Commons last week.
‘The logic of that decisive defeat is that the Prime Minister must change her “red lines” because her current deal is undeliverable. ‘Every opposition party politician came out of those meetings with the same response, there was no flexibility, there were no negotiations, nothing has changed. ‘The first thing she must do is rule out no deal.’ He then set out Labour’s wish list to remain permanently in a customs union, the single market and not rule out a People’s Vote or second referendum to stay in the EU.
May replied: ‘He says no more phoney talks, it would be nice just to have some talks with him on this issue. ‘So I hope he will consider his position not to attend those talks.’ Again, Corbyn refused.
Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat leader, said: ‘Can I also welcome the Prime Minister’s willingness to engage in serious conversation, including about the merits and practicalities of a People’s Vote. ‘But can I ask a specific question? At the end of last week the Secretary of State for Defence put 3,500 troops on Brexit standby, can she clarify what their rules of engagement would be in the event that they face angry and violent demonstrators, and would they be armed?’
May replied: ‘What we are talking about is those troops perhaps being able to relieve others who are undertaking roles such as guarding a certain site.’ Tory ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: ‘Can I congratulate her on her determination to go back to Brussels to fix the backstop. Can she confirm that in so doing she will now seek legally binding change to the text to that backstop and to the text to the Withdrawal Agreement itself.’
Nigel Dodds, DUP Westminster leader, said: ‘On Brexit can I thank the Prime Minister on the meetings that we have had in recent days and the good engagement and for her recognition that there are core issues that need to be sorted out as far as the Withdrawal Agreement is concerned, her willingness to try and reach a consensus.
‘And the fact that she is going to go back to Brussels and ask for the necessary changes to be made. And can I take it from what the Prime Minister has just said, that she is really serious now, in terms of getting a consensus that will get this through the House with the necessary legal changes to the Withdrawal Agreement?’ To which May said: ‘Yes I can give those assurances.’