Jeremy Corbyn today slammed the government’s Brexit offer as a “Frankenstein monster of a deal” and accused Theresa May of “trying to run down the clock” and “blackmail the country”.
The Labour leader was asking an urgent question in the House of Commons on the changes to the EU Withdrawal Agreement. It was granted by the Speaker, but the Prime Minister did not come to the chamber to answer, with Stephen Barclay stepping up instead.
Addressing the new Brexit Secretary, Corbyn focussed on seeking confirmation that the delayed meaningful vote will indeed be held on 15th January.
He asked: “What guarantees do we have that, faced with a yet another humiliating defeat, the Prime Minister won’t just run away?
“Can the Secretary of State do what the Prime Minister should be doing today, and confirm the timetable for the meaningful vote, and provide what we’ve not received before – a cast iron promise this will not be reneged on yet again?”
Corbyn added: “The government is trying to run down the clock in an attempt to blackmail this House and the country in supporting a botched deal.
“She has refused to work with the majority in the last few months, in a desperate attempt to spark life into what is actually a Frankenstein monster of a deal.
“We’re now told if we don’t support it, our government is prepared to push our whole economy off a cliff edge. And to prove this, no deal preparations are underway.”
The Labour leader went on to argue that May was “busy promoting Project Fear”, referring to exercises such as the rehearsal of a traffic jam in Kent, which was undertaken on Monday.
In the debate following the question, MPs also pressed the Brexit Secretary on whether the government would consider extending Article 50. Responding to members, Barclay said the vote would take place next week and described not extending Article 50 as “the government’s firm intention”.
Labour MP Lucy Powell, who has today written for LabourList on her newly published report ‘Common Market 2.0’, promoting a ‘Norway Plus’ model, asked about the possibility of holding indicative votes on ‘Plan B’ once the deal is defeated.
In his reply, Barclay echoed May’s response to Andrew Marr on Sunday: “If the deal does not go ahead, we will be in unchartered water.” It is widely expected that, should the draft agreement be voted down the first time next week, the government will attempt to put the same deal to another Commons vote.
Theresa May is only expected to update the Commons on progress in EU talks on Wednesday, when the meaningful vote debate resumes.
The Times reports that the PM is not intending to update the HoC on progress made on achieving legal changes to her Withdrawal deal until Weds. This would mean MPs would have no advanced notice of what they are being asked to start debating or voting upon. She must come today.
— Labour Whips (@labourwhips) January 7, 2019