Theresa May has said she does not yet have “sufficient support” for her Brexit deal to ask MPs to vote on it for a third time.
It had been suggested the prime minister could ask the Commons to approve her deal as soon as Tuesday, but faced with continued opposition from her backbenchers, the DUP and the Labour Party, any plan to push the vote had to be ditched.
The European Council has set a deadline of Friday for the PM to secure parliamentary approval for her withdrawal agreement if the UK is to leave the EU with a deal on May 22.
“It is with great regret that I have to conclude that as things stand there is still not sufficient support in the House to bring back the deal for a third meaningful vote,” she told the Commons today.
But May said she still hopes to ask MPs to vote on the deal later this week if she can secure support.
It comes as MPs are poised to seize control of the Brexit process this evening by backing staging votes on alternatives to May’s deal.
The plan to hold “indicative votes” on a range of options, including a second referendum, to see what, if anything, can secure a Commons majority.
But the PM said she would not commit the government to scrapping its own deal in favour of any alternative.
If MPs do not approve May’s Brexit deal the the default outcome is for the UK to leave the EU on April 12 with no-deal.
Many hardline pro-Brexit Tories would prefer a no-deal exit than May’s deal or any of the alternatives.
The PM appeared to shut this outcome down today. “Unless this House agrees to it, no-deal will not happen,” she said.
May said instead she would be forced to pursue a “slow Brexit” and ask the EU to extend Article 50 beyond May 22.
Jeremy Corbyn, who met May for Brexit talks earlier today, said the PM should accept whatever alternative Brexit plan the Commons voted for.
“Given the prime minister admitted she does not have the numbers for her deal, will she accept today that her deal is dead and the House should not have its time wasted giving the same answer for a third time?” he said.
“She cannot both accept her deal does not have the numbers and stand in the way of finding an alternative that may have the numbers.”