Brexiteers have rounded on Theresa May accusing the prime minister of ‘betrayal’ after she floated the suggestion of a possible extension to Article 50.
Peter Bone was one of those to stand up and make the accusation as he claimed Theresa May had promised MPs the UK would leave the EU on March 29th more than 100 times.
He said: ‘She has said 108 times we will leave the EU on March 29.
‘If that’s not possible, doesn’t she think the country will regard that as a betrayal?’
May replied she was still negotiating a deal that a majority of MPs could get behind, and added: ‘What the country wants is to see us delivering on Brexit and delivering leaving the EU.’
Sir Desmond Swayne joined in the attack to ask the prime minister when she expected the UK to leave.
He said: ‘So that I can prepare to realign myself to the metaphysical plane, what is her estimate of the possibility of our leaving on time?’
May insisted a deal was ‘within our grasp’ for the original March 29 date.
She said: ‘It’s my estimation that it’s within our grasp to get changes such that we can bring a deal back to this House to enable this House to confirm in a Meaningful Vote its intention to leave the EU with a deal on March 29.’
Sir Bill Cash, chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, said proposals from Labour former minister Yvette Cooper to delay the Article 50 process would ‘incur many billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money’.
He claimed this money would otherwise be available for public services and ‘would not be handed over to the EU’ if the UK leaves on March 29.
May dodged the question reiterating the claims she has made many times to MPs before.
She said: ‘I want to see a deal that this House can support that enables us to leave on March 29 with a deal.
‘That’s what the government is working on and that’s what the government continues to work on.’
Former cabinet minister Sir Patrick McLoughlin asked about the maximum extension May would seek, to which she replied Leave voters would already be ‘questioning that timetable’.
She said: ‘It is already the case that we are nearly three years on from the referendum in 2016 and people who voted for us to leave the EU, I think are rightly questioning that timetable and want to see us actually leaving the EU.’
There was, however, some support from Tory Remain MP Ken Clarke who congratulated May for ‘accepting that we’re not remotely ready for the chaos of a no-deal departure on March 29’.
He continued: ‘No-deal at any time would have very damaging medium and long-term prospects for the British economy and our wellbeing, so I will continue to vote for any Withdrawal Agreement that she manages to get with the other EU countries, but I doubt she will command a majority for any such agreement in the near future.’
The Father of the House asked about the length of any delay, adding: ‘She seems to be giving us a date for a new cliff edge at the end of June, but isn’t the danger that we will merely continue the present pantomime performance through the next three months and the public will be dismayed as we approach that date and find there is similar chaos about where we’re going?’
Clarke suggested indicative votes ‘to see where a consensus or a majority lies and then prepare our position for the much more important long-term negotiations that have to take place on the eventual settlement’.
May replied: ‘He’s right, of course, we still have to go through that second stage of negotiations.
‘He asks about any extension to Article 50 should that be necessary – I’m very clear I don’t want to see an extension to Article 50 and … I would want to see it being as short as possible.’