Fourth Time’s the Charm? May Reportedly Plans Another Brexit Deal Vote

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - APRIL 10: Britain's Prime minister Theresa May arrives ahead of a European Council meeting on Brexit at The Europa Building at The European Parliament on April 10, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. Theresa May formally presents her case to the European Union for a short delay to Brexit …
Leon Neal/Getty

Prime Minister Theresa May is reportedly planning a fourth vote in the House of Commons on her withdrawal agreement as early as next week.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom are said to have advised the prime minister to hold another vote, according to The Sun, while sources familiar with Number 10’s strategy told Sky News that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) would include incentives to entice cross-party votes.

Two sources have told the broadcaster that the bill would include reassurances on finding alternative technological solutions to keep the customs border open between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — believed to be key to gaining support from the Brexiteer Tory European Research Group (ERG) which opposes the withdrawal agreement’s Irish backstop in principle that it threatens to cut off Northern Ireland from the rest of the union.

Mrs May opened talks with the Labour Party in early April after her EU-approved treaty was voted down on March 29th — the day the UK was originally scheduled to leave the bloc. Negotiations to garner cross-party support is now at an impasse, but it is believed that including assurances of workers’ rights in the WAB could win 22 Labour votes.

One minister told Sky News that he does not believe that even with those promises in place the deal would pass, saying, “It is highly optimistic to think this has any chance.”

The reports come after the influential backbench 1922 Committee voted Wednesday to not shorten the amount of time between leadership challenges to an unpopular party leader, saving May from a party ballot that would have fallen on June 12th and safeguarding her from further challenges until December 12th.

Of the 18 Tory MPs, nine voted against, seven in favour, and two abstained, including 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady. Sources told Sky News that the votes came as a result of the backbenchers’ decision to not “rock the boat” ahead of local elections on May 2nd.

Sources believe that a possible win for the prime minister would give the Conservative Party “something” to campaign with ahead of the local elections, with one senior minister telling The Sun, “Being seen to do nothing and allowing Brexit to just drift is killing us out there on the doorstep.”

It is also believed that passing May’s WAB would mean the UK would avoid holding European Parliament elections, where it is expected Tory members will vote against the party in protest and where Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is gaining major support amongst conservatives.

Even if in reality it is the fourth reading of the withdrawal agreement, technically, it would be the second; rules prohibit more than two readings of a bill in one parliamentary session, but in order for Mrs May to get around that — after losing the meaningful votes on the 15th of January and 12th of March — the prime minister removed the political declaration, allowing her to put to vote in April the withdrawal agreement which sets out the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU.

If the bill fails at this prospective second reading, it will not be allowed to be read again this session in its current form. With May’s determination that the UK cannot make a clean break from the EU without a deal and the latest extension of Article 50 to October 31st, it means that it will have been over three years and four months since the country voted to leave the European Union.

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