May doubles-down on Brexit timetable with a challenge to Remainers

 
Mark Sands
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May is currently in the Middle East to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting (Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May has moved to see off a potential Commons defeat by accepting a Labour motion requiring the government to set out its Brexit plans to MPs. However, the PM also doubled-down on her Brexit timetable.

While the Prime Minister has accepted the Labour motion the government has tabled an amendment which further calls on MPs to support the government's plan to begin proceedings by the end of March 2017. The move comes as the Supreme Court continues to review an earlier High Court judgement that ruled MPs must be consulted before exit proceedings are commenced.

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Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, who tabled the original motion, described the amendment as "a hugely significant climb down" from the government on the basis ministers had previously said that disclosing plans would harm the UK's negotiating position. Labour will back the amended motion today.

At the prospect of a clearer Brexit process, Conservative Remainer Anna Soubry said: “British business wants a plan, because they need that certainty. So we're moving in the right direction, which is that Parliament should have these debates and Parliament must trigger Article 50.”

Notable Brexiteers including top Tory Steve Baker have also backed the new motion.

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The machinations come after European Commission negotiator Michel Barnier stipulated yesterday that the UK must complete Brexit talks by October 2018.

In a further hardening of his stance, he said that negotiations must end in time to allow six months for a deal to be ratified. Barnier also said he was open to a “very limited transition” deal with the UK, but only after British officials have indicated the kind of relationship they will seek with the EU.

"No-one wants a transition to some vague destination," said Stephen Booth, acting director of think tank Open Europe. “Establishing the roadmap to an agreement has to be quite high up on the agenda of the discussions for both sides.”

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Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond is set to visit South Africa, South Korea and Japan in a bid to foster closer trading ties as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

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