Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen
Yesterday, in his regular post-PMQs briefing for lobby journalists, Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman repeatedly refused to rule out the party abstaining on the second reading of the EU withdrawal agreement bill, prompting speculation that this could be a means by which Theresa May could win the vote – with the decisive division postponed until third reading, when Labour might take a yes/no view on the bill as amended.
But two very senior members of the shadow cabinet have now insisted that, if the bill does not include Labour’s Brexit demands, the party will vote against it at second reading in the first week of June. On ITV’s Peston last night Emily Thornberry said Labour was “going to oppose [the bill]” if it was not rewritten to include the party’s demands. And at Brexit questions in the Commons this morning Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said the same. He told MPs:
If the prime minister’s deal is put [to a vote] for the a fourth time, if it’s allowed, it will fail, just as it’s failed three times already. But I want to make it clear that Labour opposes the idea of passing the withdrawal agreement bill without an agreed deal. That would put the cart before the horse. And Labour will vote against at second reading on that basis.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the Brexiter treasurer of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, was on Sky’s All Out Politics a few minutes ago talking about the committee’s meeting with Theresa May later. Here are the main points he made.
The message is that she has to set a timetable to go or we will change the rules and have a vote of confidence. So I think it would be much more dignified if she were to set out her own, fairly tight, timetable to go and allow a leadership contest to take place, but if she does not do that, I think a fairly firm message from the ‘22 is that we will have to very seriously consider how we can engineer a vote of confidence.
Personally, the sooner the better, and that’s not being unkind to the prime minister. I just think the longer this goes on, it’s not in the nation’s interests, it’s not in the party’s interests. We’ve got European elections looming. Goodness knows what the results of that will be. But I suspect it will not be until after the European elections, and I suspect she will be very keen to try and introduce the withdrawal agreement bill, probably, it is rumoured, on 5 June.
I don’t know whether that will go through or not. But, either way, I think she’s got to set out that timetable pretty soon after that.
I think the genesis of this all started at the beginning of the negotiations. If she had been much tougher on the negotiations – instead of allowing the Europeans to set the timetable, if she had said, “No, no, no, this is how we are going to do the negotiations, if you don’t like it, we’ll leave without a deal’, then I think we would be in a much better position now.