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  1. ITV Report

Theresa May promises MPs a vote on delaying Brexit if her deal is rejected

Prime Minister Theresa May has told the House of Commons if her Brexit deal is rejected, MPs will be offered two separate votes by March 13 on whether the UK leaves with no-deal or delays Brexit beyond March 29.

Speaking in the House of Commons she made three promises to MPs.

  • A meaningful vote on her deal by March 12
  • If the deal fails, MPs will be able to vote on whether to support a no-deal
  • If MPs vote against no-deal, then MPs can vote on March 14 to extend Article 50

As Mrs May promised to keep her "commitments" the Commons roared with laughter.

But she continued and said: "They are commitments I am making as prime minister and I will stick by them, as I have previous commitments to make statements and table amendable motions by specific dates."

She added: "Let me be clear, I do not want to see Article 50 extended.

"Our absolute focus should be on working to get a deal and leaving on the 29 March."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May was promising to achieve "something she knows is not achievable" and her "obstinacy" was the block to a resolution.

"Will she be straight with people?" he said.

"The Withdrawal Agreement is not being reopened, there is no attempt to get a unilateral exit on the backstop or a time limit.

"She has so far promised a vote on her deal in December, January, February and now March, and only managed to put a vote once - in January when it was comprehensively defeated.

"The Prime Minister continues to say it is her deal or no deal, but this House has decisively rejected her deal and has clearly rejected no deal.

"It is the Prime Minister's obstinacy that is blocking a resolution."

Mrs May's comments come amid rising pressure from MPs calling for her to promise that she will prevent a no-deal Brexit from happening.

The prime minister held a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning following fresh warnings there could be ministerial resignations if she does not delay Brexit in the event of a lack of support from MPs over her revised plan.

Responding to Mrs May's plan to get a deal through Parliament, DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds said the party want legally-binding changes to the backstop and nothing less.

“We won’t be browbeaten or intimidated by what's going on in Parliament," Mr Dodds told ITV News.

He said: "If it's a bad deal back before and it still doesn't change then it's still a bad deal.

"We will not be supporting it."

Mr Corbyn also faced a backlash over the party's plan to support a referendum on a Brexit deal, with a warning it could prevent him winning the keys to Number 10 at the next election. In the Commons Mrs May accused the Labour leader of "breaking his promise to respect the 2016 referendum".

She said: "He says he and the Labour party accept the result of the referendum, and yet we also know that they back a second referendum.

"By backing a second referendum he is breaking his promise to respect the 2016 referendum.

"He'll be ignoring the biggest vote in our history and he'll be betraying the trust of the British people."

Jeremy Corbyn accused the prime minister of 'kicking the can down the road.'

Meanwhile Labour MP Yvette Cooper tabled an amendment that could rob the prime minister of her control on how Brexit unfolds.

As ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston explains, the so-call Cooper Letwin amendment would lead to legislation, as soon as Thursday, that would compel the PM to sue the EU for a Brexit postponement, if no-deal loomed, and could destroy confidence in her ability to set an agenda and govern.

In a sign of unrest within the Tory ranks, three ministers threatened to support a fresh attempt to extend Article 50 to stop the UK falling over a "precipice" on March 29 if there was no deal.

Cabinet ministers Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark have already said it would be better to extend Article 50 than leave without a deal on March 29.

All 27 European leaders have to agree on a set time to extend Article 50.

ITV News Europe Editor James Mates said: "The EU's position on extending Article 50 has definitely been softening but the discussion is likely to be for how long?"

He added Mrs May's problem is that she hasn't talked to anyone about this, "the Dutch, the Irish, even Angela Merkel tried to raise it, until now she has been resolute on this and now that it is, they will have to start from scratch."

Ahead of addressing the Commons, the prime minister met with European Council president Donald Tusk on Sunday at the EU-Arab states summit in Egypt.

Mr Tusk revealed that he had discussed the legal and procedural process for extending withdrawal talks under Article 50 with the prime minister when he met her on Sunday in Egypt.

European Council president Donald Tusk believes delaying the UK's withdrawal beyond March 29 is a Credit: PA

He said he believes delaying the UK's withdrawal beyond March 29 is now a "rational solution", warning that the only alternative, if MPs cannot agree a deal, is "a chaotic Brexit".

Speaking from Egypt on Monday, Mrs May insisted that leaving the EU with a deal on 29 March is "still within our grasp".

When ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston asked her why she was resistant to the idea of a delayed Brexit she said: "An extension to Article 50, a delay in this process, doesn't deliver a decision in Parliament, it doesn't deliver a deal.

"All it does is precisely what the word 'delay' says.

"Any extension of Article 50 isn't addressing the issues.

"We have it within our grasp. I've had a real sense from the meetings I've had here and the conversations I've had in recent days that we can achieve that deal.

"It's within our grasp to leave with a deal on March 29 and that's where all of my energies are going to be focused."