London, May 15 (PTI): British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans to bring her Brexit withdrawal agreement back for a fourth Parliament vote in June, setting an effective deadline for the ongoing cross-party talks to find a consensus on Britain’s exit terms from the European Union (EU).
Downing Street said in a statement on Tuesday evening that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be brought before the House of Commons in the week beginning June 3 in order for the UK to be able to leave the 28-member economic bloc within the October 31 deadline.
“The Prime Minister met the Leader of the Opposition (Jeremy Corbyn) in the House of Commons to make clear our determination to bring the talks to a conclusion and deliver on the referendum result to leave the EU,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
“It is imperative we do so then if the UK is to leave the EU before the summer parliamentary recess,” the spokesperson said.
The cross-party talks with the Opposition Labour Party, described as “useful and constructive”, were ongoing on Wednesday in an effort to arrive at a stable majority in Parliament for the safe passage of the Withdrawal Agreement, which has already been defeated three times in the Commons over the controversial Irish backstop clause.
The insurance policy included in the agreement to ensure a post-Brexit open border between Northern Ireland and EU member-country Ireland has been rejected by many Brexiteers as a means to keep the UK tied to EU rules even after it has left.
Britain’s MPs on all sides of the Brexit divide vowed to once again vote down the Withdrawal Agreement when it is brought back next month, saying nothing of significance has changed so far.
The Democratic Unionist Party’s Nigel Dodds, a vocal opponent to the Irish backstop, said it was highly likely that the British PM’s deal would be defeated again unless she can “demonstrate something new that addresses the problem of the backstop”.
“For the bill to have any prospect of success then there must be real change to protect the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom and deliver Brexit, he said.
Brexiteers are equally vehement over the lack of change for a fresh vote, while Remain-backing Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs said they would vote down any agreement unless it had the option of a second referendum attached to it.
“It is now time for Parliament to make a decision, reflecting the manifestos of both the Conservative and Labour parties at the last General Election and to deliver Brexit in the way that the public were promised,” said UK Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay.
Britain’s main political parties had campaigned to deliver the June 2016 referendum result in favour of Brexit. However, the parties remain divided over the nature of that delivery.
The UK must find a compromise in order to meet the EU’s latest extension to the Brexit deadline until the end of October. After a number of extensions already sought since the March 29 deadline, it is unlikely the economic bloc would be open to further extensions without a credible plan in place.
The scheduled tabling of the Withdrawal Bill in the first week of June will come days after the European Parliament elections on May 23, which the UK has been forced to contest due to the delay in its EU exit strategy.
The results are widely forecast to prove a major bruising for May’s Conservative Party as the electorate is likely to use the vote as a protest against the ruling party, with a surge expected for the newly-formed Brexit Party by anti-EU leader Nigel Farage.
The cross-party meetings have been going on for weeks with little sign of progress, with ministers warning that the talks cannot go on “indefinitely”.
This latest announcement on a fresh vote on the Withdrawal Agreement came as Tory MPs wrote to Prime Minister May urging her not to agree a deal with Labour that includes a common Customs Union with the EU a key demand of the Opposition.
Meanwhile, the pressure on May to set a firm date for her resignation as Tory leader and make way for a new Prime Minister continues to mount in the background.
She has already committed to stand down once the first phase of Brexit is sorted out and getting her legislation through Parliament by the summer parliamentary break is seen as a sign of her setting a time-frame for her Downing Street exit.
However, the bill clearing a deeply divided Commons remains highly uncertain.