Prime Minister Theresa May today conceded the possibility of delaying Brexit if parliament rejects her deal for a second time.
Addressing the Commons, May said that if MPs reject her withdrawal agreement on 12 March, a vote will take place the following day on whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal.
If parliament also rejects the route of a no-deal Brexit then another vote is set to take place on 14 March on a potential extension of Article 50 beyond 29 March.
“Let me be clear, I don’t want to see Article 50 extended,” May said. “Our absolute focus should be on working to get a deal and leaving on 29 March.
“An extension beyond the end of June would mean the UK takes part in the EU elections.
“What kind of message would that send to the 17m people who voted to leave the EU nearly three years ago?”
Sterling rose to $1.318 against the dollar as markets signalled hopes that Brexit could be postponed.
But May also warned that delaying Brexit next month would increase the risk of exiting the EU without a deal further down the line.
“It would create a much sharper cliff edge in a few months’ time,” May claimed. “One extension cannot take no-deal off the table. The only way to od that is renege Article 50 – which I shall not do – or agree a deal.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused May of postponing Brexit for “the umpteenth time” as she seeks to run down the clock.
“The Prime Minister has become quite the expert at kicking the can down the road but the problem is the road is running out,” he said.
“The consequences of running down the clock is evident and very real for industry.”
“It can only be described as grotesquely reckless," he added, claiming May has been “stringing people along”.
He called on May to rule out a “reckless, cliff-edge” Brexit.
May’s move comes after three ministers reportedly threatened to resign unless May took steps to rule out a no-deal Brexit, widely seen as damaging to the UK’s economy.
Industry and energy minister Richard Harrington, digital minister Margot James and business, energy and industrial strategy minister Claire Perry all threatened to quit, according to a letter seen by the Daily Mail.