‘ON ONE issue on the Northern Ireland backstop there remains widespread and deep concern. As a result, if we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow it would be rejected by the different parties,’ May admitted to Parliament yesterday announcing: ‘We will therefore postpone the vote scheduled for tomorrow.’
She insisted that ‘whatever future relationship you want’ between the UK and the EU, ‘there is no deal without the backstop.’ She outlined changes to the political agreement on the question of the backstop, but then admitted: ‘I am clear from what I have heard in this place and from my own conversations, that these elements do not offer a sufficient number of colleagues the reassurance they need.’ At this the House broke out into jeers and laughter.
‘I spoke to a number of EU leaders over the weekend and in advance of the European Council I will go to see my counterparts in other member states and the leadership of the Council and the Commission. I will discuss with them the clear concerns that this House has expressed.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘We have endured two years of shambolic negotiations, redlines which have been boldly announced, then cast aside. We are now on our third Brexit secretary, and each one of them has been excluded from these vital negotiations.
‘We were promised a precise and substantive document, and got a vague 26 page wish list. And they have become the first government ever in British history to be held in contempt of Parliament. ‘… The Prime Minister is trying to buy herself one last chance to save this deal. If she doesn’t take on board the fundamental changes required then she must make way for those who can.’
Then the Speaker himself made a political statement, John Bercow said: ‘Halting the debate after no fewer than 164 colleagues have taken the trouble to contribute, will be thought by many members of this House to be deeply discourteous.’
Kirsty Blackman, SNP Deputy Westminister Leader, called for a second referendum. She said: ‘Prime Minister, members across this House don’t want your deal. The EU don’t want to renegotiate, isn’t the only way to end this deadlock to bring it back to the people?’
While replying, May was heckled with ‘When’s the vote?’ She suggested it might not be until January 21st. Nigel Dodds, DUP Deputy Leader said: ‘Frankly, what the Prime Minister says today, simply isn’t credible, is it? … Does she not get it by now that the Withdrawal Agreement legally binding text is unacceptable to this House.’
Leader of the LibDems Vincent Cable said: ‘With the fiasco today, the government has really lost all authority.’ Referring to Labour Leader Corbyn he said: ‘Can I just say that I and my colleagues will fully support the leader of the opposition if he now proceeds to a no confidence vote in the government.’ However, neither Corbyn nor any other Labour leader took up his proposal.