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JEREMY CORBYN has accused Prime Minister Theresa May of running away from her Commons Brexit armageddon, instead “traipsing round the Continent in pursuit and search of warm words.”
But the Labour leader warned today that the runaway PM would still have to put her “shabby” Brexit deal to a Commons vote.
In today’s emergency debate — granted after Ms May postponed the Commons vote on her deal as it stood no chance of getting the backing of her own Tory MPs, let alone winning the House’s backing — Mr Corbyn pointed out that there were only just over 100 days to the legally enshrined Brexit date, March 29 2019.
He slammed her whistlestop tour of European capitals as a “waste of time and waste of public money.” He said: “This runaway Prime Minister is not even seeking to negotiate. She confirmed she’s only seeking reassurances.
“… If the Prime Minister comes back with nothing more than warm words then she must immediately put her deal to the House. No more delays, no more tricks, let Parliament take control.
“If not, then, frankly Mr Speaker, she must go. We cannot tolerate delay any longer.”
Ahead of a two-day European Council summit starting tomorrow, EU commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker ruled out revision of the deal, insisting that there was “no room whatsoever” for renegotiating the withdrawal agreement.
To the frustration of MPs — and the wider country — Downing Street said that the deal would be back before Parliament for a vote by January 21. Ms May’s spokesman said that she continues to believe that preparations can be completed by then.
In the Commons, Mr Corbyn referred to a media report that had broken just before the debate which claimed that Ms May had told senior EU officials on Sunday that she intended to postpone today’s Brexit vote — some 24 hours before she informed all her Cabinet ministers.
Mr Corbyn said: “It is utterly ludicrous. Everyone knew the date this vote was going to be put, the whole world knew about it. And we now hear that she, apparently, was trying to arrange some backroom deal ahead of it and then pulled the vote — but didn’t bother to tell an awful lot of other people she was doing so.”
He said that it was not only the Irish-border backstop arrangement that MPs have a problem with, but also the “26-page wish list” of a withdrawal agreement that fails to guarantee the “frictionless trade” that Ms May promised, rights and protections.
Mr Corbyn and other opposition party leaders have written to Ms May setting out five questions, he said, stating that she should reply to it as soon as she “returns from this strange stage-managed foray to Europe.”
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, who is effectively Ms May’s deputy, defended her vote postponement, saying there was “no doubt about her commitment to parliamentary accountability.”
He claimed that she had spent “more than 22 hours” in the past two months “making statements and answering questions from every corner of this House, predominately about the question of EU exit.”
Earlier Commons speaker John Bercow mocked Chancellor Philip Hammond after he had told Labour MPs to vote for the Brexit deal so “we can all move on.”
During Treasury questions, Mr Bercow said: “I just very gently say to the Chancellor, to whom I’ve been listening with great care: It’s quite difficult to vote for something if there isn’t a vote.”
As MPs howled with laughter, he said: “I’m trying to help him, but it’s a point that’s so blindingly obvious I’m surprised that I have to state it.”
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