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Brexit plan 'in paralysis', with ministers set to delay EU withdrawal bill

Brexit bill faces ‘weeks of delays’ over fears Tory rebels could vote against it

18 October 2017, 4:40pm
Keir Starmer questions whether Theresa May 'can deliver Brexit' (Photo: the Independent)
Keir Starmer questions whether Theresa May 'can deliver Brexit' (Photo: the Independent)
Theresa May’s flagship Brexit legislation is facing further delays and may not be debated by members of parliament for weeks, due to the threat of a Tory rebellion, according to reports.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was expected to return to the House of Commons, for further debate, next week, having already been delayed due to fears that the government could face “embarrassing” defeats on key issues.

Reports now suggest that the bill may not move forward until after parliament’s week-long recess at the beginning of November.

The government has previously insisted the legislation had not been delayed, as no date was set in stone for it to return to the Commons for further scrutiny by MPs.

However, Labour said that the potential delay showed that there was “chaos at the heart of government”, as ministers attempted to placate Tory rebels who are “angry” over some aspects of the bill, particularly over plans to hand ministers so-called Henry VIII powers to allow them to change laws, without full parliamentary scrutiny.

Commons leader, Andrea Leadsom, will confirm next week’s Commons business in a routine statement on Thursday.

If the Withdrawal Bill is not tabled for debate, it will be taken as a sign that ministers have, so far, been unable to win over their conservative colleagues, who are currently poised to vote against the government, unless certain concessions are granted.

Delaying the Bill, which will transfer EU laws on British statute books, so that the UK does not face a legislative cliff-edge the day following Brexit, is significant, as the government is working on a tight time frame.

If May is able to successfully navigate the Bill through the Commons, it will still have to progress through a house of lords, where the government does not command a majority.

Keir Starmer: 'There is chaos at the heart of government. Theresa May cannot unite her cabinet or her party behind this deeply flawed bill'. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Keir Starmer: 'There is chaos at the heart of government. Theresa May cannot unite her cabinet or her party behind this deeply flawed bill'. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA)
The shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, said that the reported delay showed the government’s withdrawal strategy was in a state of paralysis.

“The negotiations are in deadlock and now a crucial piece of legislation is facing further delay”, said Starmer.

“There is chaos at the heart of the government. Theresa May cannot unite her cabinet or her party behind this deeply flawed Bill”

“There are now serious questions about whether the Prime Minister can deliver Brexit”, he said.