Instead, they could be given another
series of non-binding votes on possible Brexit alternatives, Housing Secretary
James Brokenshire said.
The prime minister needs to get a deal
approved by Parliament by 29 March to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
Labour has accused her of “cynically”
running down the clock.
On Wednesday, Mrs May will ask MPs for
more time to get legally-binding changes to the controversial Northern Irish
backstop, which she believes will be enough to secure a majority in Parliament
for her deal.
But the following day, Labour will
attempt to force the government to hold the final, “meaningful vote” on Mrs
May’s Brexit deal by 26 February.
Mr Brokenshire refused to commit to
this date in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, saying there could
be more votes on amendments to the proposed deal instead.
“If the meaningful vote has not
happened, so in other words things have not concluded, then Parliament would
have that further opportunity by no later than 27 February,” said Mr
“I think that gives that sense of
timetable, clarity and purpose on what we are doing with the EU – taking that
work forward and our determination to get a deal – but equally knowing that
role that Parliament very firmly has.”
But Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary,
Sir Keir Starmer, says he believes the prime minister is “pretending to make
progress” on the Irish backstop issue.
He says what she actually intends to
do is return to Parliament after the 21/22 March European Council summit the
week before Brexit and offer MPs a “binary choice” – her deal or no deal.
“We can’t allow that to happen,” Sir
Keir told The Sunday Times.
“There needs to be a day when
Parliament says that’s it, enough is enough.”
Labour is proposing its own Brexit
plan, which would involve the UK staying in a customs union with the EU, which
they say could get the backing of a majority of MPs.
The government has not ruled out
supporting this – and has promised a formal response to it and further talks
with Labour – but they say it would prevent the UK from making its own trade
deals after Brexit.
There are fewer than 50 days until
Brexit. The law is already in place which means the UK will leave the EU on 29
Mrs May’s Brexit deal – which she
spent months negotiating and had agreed with the EU – covers the terms of the
UK’s divorce and the framework of future relations.
But it was rejected by the UK
Parliament and if it is not approved by Brexit day, the default position would
be a no-deal Brexit.
Last month, Parliament voted in favour
of an amendment that supported most of the PM’s deal but called for backstop –
which is a last-resort option to prevent a hard border in Ireland – to be
replaced with “alternative arrangements”. The prime minister is now in talks
with Brussels to seek these changes to the backstop.
A number of government ministers will
also be meeting their counterparts across the continent this week, in order to
underline Mrs May’s determination to achieve a deal.
Critics of the backstop in Mrs May’s
current deal say they could tie the UK to EU rules indefinitely or mean
Northern Ireland ends up under a different system to the rest of the UK.
But the Irish government and the EU
have repeatedly rejected calls for changes.
Other options likely to be debated by
MPs on Thursday include extending Article 50, the legal mechanism taking the UK
out of the EU on 29 March, to allow more time to reach an agreement with