Brexit: MPs pass emergency law forcing Theresa May to ask for extension and avoid no deal by one vote

Yvette Cooper's bill to allow MPs to vote on asking EU for new extension to Article 50 is narrowly approved by Commons 

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 03 April 2019 19:13 BST
Brexit: MPs pass emergency law forcing Theresa May to seek further delay to avert no deal by one vote

MPs have narrowly passed an emergency bill to avert a no-deal Brexit by forcing Theresa May to seek a further delay to Britain’s departure from the EU.

The legislation, proposed by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, instructs ministers to hold a House of Commons vote on a proposal to ask the EU for another extension to the Article 50 period. It was approved by MPs by just one vote.

The bill is designed to ensure that Britain does not crash out of the EU on 12 April – the date it is currently due to leave.

However, it will now need to be passed by the House of Lords, and any extension would have to be approved by the EU next week.

Ms Cooper’s European Union Withdrawal Bill (No 5) passed the Commons by 313 votes to 312 after being rushed through in the space of one day, with MPs sitting until almost midnight to complete a process that would usually take place over several months. Fourteen Conservative MPs broke ranks to vote for it.

It means that, providing the bill is passed by the Lords, Ms May will be forced to give MPs a vote - probably early next week – on the proposed length of the extension she will seek from the EU.

The prime minister will then travel to Brussels for an emergency meeting of the European Council, where EU leaders will decide whether or not to accept the government’s request.

Ms Cooper told the Commons it was ”really important for people to come together” adding: “The challenges that we face from the threat of no deal are very significant.”

She said: “Three years on from the referendum the biggest problem for all of us is that so little has been done to heal the national Brexit divide or to bring people together and this is major constitutional change and if there isn’t that effort made to bring people together, then to be honest whatever we conclude either today, tomorrow, next week, it won’t last because there won’t have been that work to build the consensus.

“We all know that there is no consensus on the best way forward at the moment – we hope we can reach it, but at the moment there is no agreement – but let us at least sustain our agreement on ruling out the worst way forward.”

Ms Cooper’s bill was given emergency time in the Commons after MPs approved a timetable for it by just one vote, dividing by 312 votes to 311 in favour. The government had ordered Conservative MPs to vote against it.

It came as Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn held talks in a bid to forge a cross-party consensus on a new Brexit deal.

Both sides described the discussions as “constructive”, with a No10 spokesperson saying: “Today’s talks were constructive, with both sides showing flexibility and a commitment to bring the current Brexit uncertainty to a close. We have agreed a programme of work to ensure we deliver for the British people, protecting jobs and security.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “We have had constructive exploratory discussions about how to break the Brexit deadlock. We have agreed a programme of work between our teams to explore the scope for agreement.”

However, Mr Corbyn later said: “There hasn’t been as much change as I expected but we will have further discussions tomorrow to explore technical issues.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in