British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday promised a “new and improved deal” that she hopes will see her controversial Brexit agreement through parliament when it comes up for a fourth vote in the first week of June.
Writing in The Sunday Times, May said it was “truly” decision time for MPs when the Withdrawal Agreement Bill returns to the House of Commons and claimed that she would not simply be asking them to “think again” but will be asking them to consider an improved package of measures that honours the June 2016 referendum result in favour of Brexit.
“When the Withdrawal Agreement Bill comes before MPs, it will represent a new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons, with an improved package of measures that I believe can win new support,” she writes.
“I will not be simply asking MPs to think again. Instead I will ask them to look at a new and improved deal with fresh pairs of eyes―and to give it their support,” she said.
May, who is weighed down by mounting pressure from her backbench MPs to lay out a clear timetable for her exit from Downing Street after the fourth vote on her withdrawal agreement with the European Union (EU) next month, revealed that she was open to holding a series of indicative votes in parliament in a last-ditch effort to try and see her deal through.
“The Cabinet will consider the details of those changes next week. It will also consider whether holding votes in parliament to test support for possible solutions would be a useful prelude to MPs considering the legislation,” she said.
The beleaguered British PM has been struggling to surmount the opposition to the controversial Irish backstop clause in the agreement, which the EU sees an insurance policy against a hard border between its member-country Ireland and the UK after Brexit. However, the Brexiteers within her own Tory party have consistently voted against it over fears that it could be used as an excuse to keep Britain tied to EU norms even after its exit from the 28-member European economic bloc.
May warned that even though her new package will be a stronger proposition, it was important for the parliamentary arithmetic to fall into place to avert a chaotic no-deal Brexit and leave the EU with a deal in place by the latest deadline of October 31.
“While the deal MPs are to vote on will be different, the dynamics of their decision will remain the same. A majority of MPs are against leaving without a deal; whatever you think of that as an outcome, parliament will do all it can to block it,” she said.
The Conservative Party leader also used the intervention to make a plea for the European Parliament elections scheduled for next Thursday, when opinion polls indicate that her party will be punished at the ballot box in favour of the newly-formed anti-EU Brexit Party.
She said: “I hope that everyone who wants to see Brexit delivered in a responsible way as soon as possible will vote for the only party that can actually deliver that: the Conservative Party.
“The other parties standing in this election either cannot deliver Brexit or have so far refused to do so. Only the Conservatives can and will. But whatever the result on Thursday, it will then be for MPs to take a decision.”
Earlier this week, the Opposition Labour Party had called off the cross-party talks initiated after May’s last Commons defeat in an effort to arrive at a parliamentary consensus on Brexit.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn blamed her “weak” leadership, which is now on a time-bound clock, for the failure of the talks.
May asserted that the talks had succeeded in finding some “common ground” with Labour, which would feed into the improved package of assurances to support her withdrawal agreement.
“Some other issues have proved to be more difficult, in particular the question of a second referendum. The fact is that while nine out of ten Conservative MPs have backed the Brexit deal, there is a much bigger split on the Labour benches on a so-called 'people’s vote',” she noted, in reference to a demand by many Labour MPs for a compulsory second referendum on any Brexit deal to give the British people another say over the issue.
“We had a people’s vote in 2016―and the people are still waiting for their decision to be implemented,” said May, who has remained firmly opposed to another referendum.