Theresa May’s statement on her Brexit plan was described as being ‘like groundhog day’ as she failed to provide a Plan B to the House of Commons.
Delivering a ‘nothing has changed’ speech, the prime minister committed herself to further talks with MPs to try to tweak her Brexit plans.
She said: ‘I will be talking further this week to colleagues, including in the DUP, to consider how we might meet our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland in a way that can command the greatest possible support in the House.
‘And I will then take the conclusions of those discussions back to the EU.’
The prime minister used her statement to further dismiss calls for a People’s Vote on Brexit, telling the Commons: ‘I have set out many times my deep concerns about returning to the British people for a second referendum.
‘Our duty is to implement the decision of the first one.
‘I fear a second referendum would set a difficult precedent that could have significant implications for how we handle referendums in this country.
‘Not least, strengthening the hand of those campaigning to break-up our United Kingdom.
‘It would require an extension of Article 50. We would very likely have to return a new set of MEPs to the European Parliament in May.
‘And I also believe that there has not yet been enough recognition of the way that a second referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said her attempts at cross-party talks were ‘a sham’ and that talk of continued dialogue with the EU over the backstop made it ‘like groundhog day’.
He said: ‘The prime minister’s invitation to talks has been exposed as a PR sham.
‘Every opposition party politician came out of those meetings with the same response.
‘Contrary to what the prime minister just said there was no flexibility, there were no negotiations – nothing had changed.’
May did, however, annouce that the £65 fee for EU citizens to secure the right to live in the UK after Brexit will be scrapped.
She said: ‘The next phase of testing of the scheme for EU nationals to confirm their status has launched today.
‘And having listened to concerns from members and organisations like the 3 million group, I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on the 30th March the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay and anyone who has or will apply during the pilot fee will have their fee reimbursed.’
Stephen Doughty for the People’s Vote campaign welcomed the move but said it should never have happened.
He said: ‘Waiving the fee for EU nationals is clearly welcome, but we should never have been in this position in the first place. What is needed is for parliament to demonstrate there is a clear majority against a no deal Brexit and then make an honest assessment of alternatives to the government’s proposed deal.
‘There is no form of Brexit that can fulfil the promises made in 2016, that is better than the deal we’ve got inside Europe or will prevent this crisis going on forever. When those options are removed, the only way forward is to give the public the final say.’
Rupa Huq MP from the Best For Britain campaign said the prime minister was acting ‘like a medieval monarch’ who was not listneing.
She said: ‘The fact the prime minister has been compelled to come to parliament to explain herself today and the fact MPs only got a meaningful vote at all is because of backbench actions. It’s all part of a wider pattern of ignoring others of which these aborted cross-party talks are latest example.’