Prime Minister Theresa May put off a vote in parliament on her Brexit deal until as late as March 12 – just 17 days before Britain is due to leave the EU – setting up a showdown this week with MPs who accuse her of running out the clock.
As the Brexit crisis goes down to the wire, May said a so-called “meaningful vote” would not take place this week as expected. Parliament will still hold a series of Brexit votes on Wednesday, but May’s deal itself will not be on the table.
On her way to an EU-Middle East summit, May said she is close to bringing home changes to her agreement that would satisfy objections to it, but needed time for meetings with European leaders which meant it would not be ready this week.
“We won’t bring a meaningful vote to parliament this week but we will ensure that that happens by the 12th of March,” May told reporters on board her plane. “It is still within our grasp to leave the European Union with a deal on the 29th of March and that is what we are working to do.”
Opponents accuse her of deliberately running out the clock, so as to force parliament to choose between a deal it has already rejected or leaving the EU with no deal at all, which businesses say would destroy their supply chains.
Both May’s Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party are formally committed to exiting the EU in line with a 2016 referendum vote, but both parties are internally divided over how or even whether to do so.