Government will not allow time for debate on Corbyn's motion of no-confidence in PM, says Downing Street

The Government has rejected a request by Labour to allow time for a debate and vote on Jeremy Corbyn's no-confidence motion against the prime minister, a Downing Street source said.

The source said: "We won't allow time for what is a stunt. The FTPA (Fixed Term Parliament Act) applies if Labour wants to put down a motion under the terms of that."

Mr Corbyn filed the motion in response to a Commons speech by Theresa May, in which she set a date for a debate on her Brexit deal, which she said would continue on the week commencing January 7 and the "meaningful vote" will take place the following week.

Mr Corbyn claimed it "unacceptable that we should be waiting almost a month" for the vote and told the House of Commons the only way he of "ensuring a vote takes place this week" is to table the motion of no-confidence.

He said: "The Prime Minister has obdurately refused to ensure a vote took place on the date she agreed, she refuses to allow a vote to take place this week and is now, I assume, thinking the vote will be on January 14 - almost a month away. This is unacceptable in any way whatsoever."

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston says the Government decision to deny Parliament time to debate the motion means it "now seems dead".

The motion was largely symbolic and non-binding, however Labour must now decide whether to table a motion of no-confidence in the Government - rather than in the prime minister - under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, a move in which Theresa May could not intervene.

Opposition parties tabled an amendment to Mr Corbyn's no-confidence vote in Mrs May saying they would beef it up into a full-confidence vote in the Government.

The SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party have backed the change, laid down on Monday night to trigger the legally binding FTPA provisions.

The SNP's Ian Blackford MP, who signed the amendment, said: "It is clear the Prime Minister's tactic has been to run down the clock and deprive Parliament of any alternative to her deal.

He added: "If Labour are serious about wanting a general election, they must accept our amendment."

She said: "I can confirm today that we intend to return to the meaningful vote debate in the week commencing January 7 and hold the vote the following week."

The Prime Minister was heckled throughout her speech as she told Parliament another vote would cause "irreparable damage" to the integrity of British politics.

She commented on the popularity of her proposed deal, admitting it was a compromise, but told the Commons "if we let the perfect be the enemy of the good, we risk leaving the EU with no deal."

Mrs May stressed that the Government had prepared for a no-deal Brexit and "tomorrow the Cabinet will be discussing the next phase in ensuring we are ready for that scenario".

Mr Corbyn hit back at the PM, saying she had led the country "into a national crisis," adding that the "grave situation" was demonstrated at last week's EU summit.

He said the "cold reality" was Mrs May achieved "nothing" after returning to Brussels to seek further assurances over the Irish border backstop.

Despite apparently failing to achieve new assurances on the backstop, Mrs May stood defiant against calls from Tony Blair and Tory MPs who are urging another referendum.

She said: "Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum.

"Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.

"Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last.

"And another vote which would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it."

Responding to Mrs Mays speech the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford later quipped "we thought the Prime Minister had reached rock bottom, but she's still digging".

He said: "After two years of negotiation the Prime Minister has designed a deal that she knows that she cannot deliver, it doesn't have the support of this House.

"It is time to call time on this Government, it is a laughing stock."

Mrs May's Commons address follows comments from her de facto deputy, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, and the PM's chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, both dismissing reports they are planning for a new referendum.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a prominent Brexiteer, told ITV News that compared to the alternatives, "Mrs May's deal looks stronger in comparison to any of those options".

And Business Secretary Greg Clark said supporting Mrs May's deal would help end uncertainty, but if Parliament rejected it then MPs should "consider each of the alternatives and set out what kind of deal Parliament is willing to pass".

He said a second referendum would not end the uncertainty but "continue it".

  • Gove and Clark say PM's deal is the best option available:

Mr Clark told ITV News: "If it were the case that Parliament didn't support it, then I would say to colleagues in Parliament there's no use just being critics. It's easy to find things you don't like about a deal, any deal, but we are elected to take responsibility.

"Almost no one in Parliament wants to see the consequences of crashing out without a deal."

He added that if MPs looked at what the alternatives are, "they could see that the deal has more to commend it than they've seen so far".

Mrs May's official spokesman told a Westminster media briefing that there were "no plans" to stage an indicative vote on a range of Brexit options, but did not definitively rule the option out.

He said that all Cabinet ministers who have spoken publicly on Brexit in recent days had made clear their commitment to getting the Prime Minister's deal through Parliament, which remains the Government's priority.

Talks by officials were continuing "at all levels" to seek further clarification and assurances on the terms of the existing deal - and particularly the nature of the proposed backstop - as agreed at the European Council last week, he said.

The spokesman added: "The Prime Minister is very clear that we will not be holding a second referendum."

The PM faces a battle to convince MPs from all sides to back her deal. Credit: PA

Mrs May faces a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday following a frantic few days when key ministers have jockeyed for attention and staked out strong Brexit positions.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain would "prosper" even if it quit the EU with no deal, while Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd argued firmly against leaving the bloc without an agreement.

And International Trade Secretary Liam Fox indicated he could support MPs being given a free vote on Brexit options.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson railed against the idea of a second referendum, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday: "A second referendum would provoke instant, deep and ineradicable feelings of betrayal."

Mr Johnson said the idea that the Government would hold a fresh Brexit poll was "sickening".

Labour is insisting that Mrs May puts her Brexit deal to a vote in the Commons before Parliament rises for Christmas on Thursday.

However, the party has made it clear it will not table a motion of no-confidence in the Government until such a vote has been held.