THE Prime Minister should rule out a no-deal Brexit, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, said on Tuesday.
Dame Caroline, a Conservative, said: “If the Prime Minister would rule out no deal, it might get us some more concessions from the EU. . . There is a clear majority in Parliament against no deal, and if you have a clear majority, the Government has to listen.”
Acting in a personal capacity, and not as the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline has put down an amendment to the Prime Minister’s motion, that says that MPs have considered the next steps in her Brexit plan, which rules out no deal.
It adds to the Government’s motion: “Rejects the United Kingdom leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement and a framework for the future relationship.” The amendment is co-proposed by the Labour MP Jack Dromey, and has cross-party support from MPs, including the Conservatives Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry, and Sarah Wollaston, and Labour Members Yvette Cooper, Harriet Harman, and Stephen Kinnock.
It follows the defeat of Mrs May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday of last week, by 432 votes to 202 — the largest defeat for a sitting Government in history (News, 18 January). MPs will vote on the motion on Tuesday. It is expected that Theresa May will return with a new withdrawal agreement to be voted on next month.
Dame Caroline said that she had put down the amendment “because the consequences [of no-deal] are so dire”.
The independent MP Frank Field has also put down an amendment that calls for indicative votes to be held, to sound out what form of withdrawal agreement MPs would support. Another amendment, proposed by Ms Cooper and Nick Boles, a Conservative, says that, if there is no deal in place by the end of February, Article 50 should be extended until the end of 2019.
Some Conservative MPs have indicated that they would vote for the Government’s withdrawal deal if the Prime Minister could win a concession from the EU on the Irish backstop — the mechanism by which Northern Ireland would remain within parts of the EU’s Single Market to prevent a hard border in Ireland in the event of the UK’s leaving the EU without having found a solution concerning the border.
Ben Bradley, the Conservative MP for Mansfield, said on Wednesday: “There are clearly forces at work to block and frustrate Brexit, and the most important thing, whether it’s good deal, no deal, or whatever, is that we leave.”
“The public and leave voters will accept nothing less, and that means that, yes, I will vote for a revised deal that doesn’t include a permanent backstop, because, while I still have issues with it, those issues are then temporary, and our leaving on 29 March is absolutely secured.”
The Government also announced this week that it would be dropping the £65 charge for EU citizens seeking to claim settled status in the UK after Brexit. The policy was criticised by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, this month (News, 4 January).