Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn urges Theresa May to cut short MPs’ break for vote

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Reuters

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged the prime minister to cut short MPs’ Christmas break to allow for an earlier vote on her Brexit deal.

MPs are due back in the Commons on 7 January, and Theresa May has said the vote on the EU withdrawal agreement will take place the following week.

However, in an interview with the Independent website, Mr Corbyn said it must happen “as soon as possible”.

A Downing Street source told the Press Association it was a “silly demand”.

The vote on the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the PM with Brussels had been due to take place on 11 December. It was postponed by the PM when, after three days of debate, it became clear it would be “rejected by a significant margin”.

There was widespread anger among opposition parties when Mrs May told MPs they would not vote until mid-January. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March.

Mr Corbyn told the Independent: “What I suspect is that it’s a completely cynical manoeuvre to run down the clock and offer MPs the choice of the devil or the deep blue sea.”

Ministers and the opposition alike argue that leaving without a deal would hit the UK economy badly, with official analysis suggesting it could lead to a 9.3% contraction over 15 years.

The government has stepped up its planning for that scenario, while the EU revealed its contingencies before Christmas.

‘Let’s have it’

Pressed on whether he believed Mrs May should recall parliament a week early, on 2 January, Mr Corbyn said it was “in her hands”.

“I want us to have a vote as soon as possible, that’s what I’ve been saying for the past two weeks, and if that means recalling parliament to have the vote let’s have it,” he said.

Before Christmas, Labour tried – and failed – to force a no-confidence vote in Mrs May as prime minister.

But Mr Corbyn stopped short of calling for a confidence vote in the government that could potentially trigger the snap general election Labour says it wants.

In his interview, the Labour leader again insisted it was a matter of timing.

“We’ve made clear it’s a question of when, not if, we do a vote of no confidence in the government. Obviously we do [it] at a time when their confidence is the lowest ever, which I suspect will be after they’ve lost the vote.”

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Asked whether Labour would seek to delay Brexit to allow for renegotiations, in the event the party won power, Mr Corbyn replied: “Lots of things are possible, the EU has long form on reopening and extending negotiations, but let’s not jump too many hoops when we haven’t arrived at them.”

Responding to the article, a Downing Street source was quoted by PA as saying: “Instead of making silly demands, Jeremy Corbyn should be honest with voters that he has no alternative plan and only intends to frustrate Brexit, ultimately betraying the referendum result.”

Some in Mrs May’s cabinet have urged the prime minister to hold a series of indicative votes to discover which Brexit option would be most likely to win support of a majority of MPs.

However, on Thursday, shadow chancellor John McDonnell dismissed the idea, telling the Financial Times it would only “run the clock down even further”.

Elsewhere, one European Commissioner Gunther Oettinger indicated that the remaining 27 member states would have to plug a hole in the EU budget if a no-deal scenario meant the UK did not pay the estimated £39bn “divorce bill” agreed in Mrs May’s deal.

Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn urges Theresa May to cut short MPs’ break for vote}