Brexit

Arlene Foster phone call scuppers Theresa May's plans for a third Brexit vote

Arlene Foster told the prime minister that the DUP's position had not changed. Picture by Dominic Lipinski, Press Association

THERESA May has pledged to continue efforts to get her Brexit withdrawal deal through Westminster before the end of this week after acknowledging yesterday that it still didn't have the necessary support from MPs.

The embattled Tory leader was reportedly hoping to bring a third so-called meaningful vote but was forced to postpone her plans in the wake of a lunchtime phone conversation with DUP leader Arlene Foster.

The European Council has set a deadline of Friday for the British prime minister to secure parliament's approval for the deal if the UK is to leave the EU with a deal on May 22.

If Mrs May fails to secure MPs' support then the UK has until April 12 to propose a different approach or crash out of the EU without a deal.

Ahead of making yesterday afternoon's statement in the House of Commons, the prime minister called Mrs Foster to establish if her party would support the deal, which the DUP's 10 MPs have rejected on the two previous votes.

However, the phone call failed to provide the breakthrough Mrs May required, with a DUP spokesman saying the party's "position remains unchanged".

The prime minister told MPs she regretted having to delay Brexit beyond the scheduled date of March 29 but she cautioned MPs against seeking to obstruct a statutory instrument tabled on Monday which will remove the date from Brexit legislation.

She warned that such a move would "cause legal confusion and uncertainty but it would not have any effect on the date of our exit".

Theresa May had to postpone her plans for a third meaningful vote after speaking with Arlene Foster. Picture by House of Commons, Press Association

Ahead of a debate on a proposal to force a series of indicative votes on alternatives to her deal, Mrs May said she would oppose any moves to take control of the Brexit process out of the hands of the government.

She said her government would not regard the outcome of any votes as binding and was "sceptical" of the process producing a useful outcome.

"No government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is," she told MPs.

"So I cannot commit the government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this house but I do commit to engaging constructively with this process."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would back an amendment removing control of the parliamentary timetable from the prime minister in order to hold indicative votes, declaring: "It is time for parliament to take control."

But Mrs May told the commons the proposal would set an unwelcome precedent which would "overturn the balance of our democratic institutions".

Setting out the choices facing MPs, she said: "Unless this House agrees to it, no deal will not happen – no Brexit must not happen.

"And a slow Brexit, which extends Article 50 beyond May 22, forces the British people to take part in European elections and gives up control of any of our borders, laws, money or trade, is not a Brexit that will bring the British people together."

She said her deal was a compromise which respected both sides of the argument and "if this House can back it, we can be out of the European Union in less than two months".

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