MPs pass new law instructing PM to seek extension to avoid no-deal Brexit

MPs in the House of Commons. Photograph: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire

MPs in the House of Commons. Photograph: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire . - Credit: PA

MPs and peers have backed a new law to extend the Brexit process and require Theresa May by law to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The Commons backed a series of Lords amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 5) Act after it was rushed through both Houses of Parliament.

The cross-party move brought forward by Yvette Cooper and others calls on May to lay a Commons motion on the extension of Article 50 which could then be amended by MPs.

The bill was amended by peers to state that nothing in it prevented the prime minister from 'seeking or agreeing' an extension, provided it was not earlier than May 22.

May is already seeking a further Brexit delay to June 30 and EU leaders will discuss this at an emergency summit.

Handout photo from the Twitter page of Yvette Cooper of the Royal Assent for her cross party bill. P

Handout photo from the Twitter page of Yvette Cooper of the Royal Assent for her cross party bill. Photograph: Yvette Cooper/Twitter/PA Wire . - Credit: PA

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Brexiteer Tory MP John Redwood said: 'Tonight is another sad night, looking at the way this Parliament is breaking its word and breaking its promises and letting down 17.4 million Leave voters.'

And he said to Labour MPs who support the Bill: 'Understand the damage you are doing to this institution.

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'Understand the damage you are doing to our democracy, and vote for us to leave the European Union.'

Labour former minister Yvette Cooper said: 'Both houses of Parliament have tonight strongly made clear their view that a no deal would be deeply damaging to jobs, manufacturing and security of our country, and also set out support for the Prime Minister in securing an agreement later this week. But these are unprecedented circumstances.'

The Commons move came as Brexit talks between the government and Labour resumed.

But there appeared little prospect of a compromise agreement being in place in time for Wednesday's EU meeting, and no chance of it being approved by MPs before the EU27 meet.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the talks were serious, but the government was sticking to its red lines.

Corbyn said: 'The exchanges with the government have been serious, but our shadow cabinet expressed frustration that the prime minister has not yet moved off her red lines so we can reach a compromise.

'The key issues that we must see real movement on to secure an agreement are a customs union with the EU, alignment with the single market and full dynamic alignment of workers' rights, environmental protections and consumer standards.

'We are prepared to talk and put forward our view, but talks have to mean a movement and so far there has been no change in those red lines.'

The discussions are taking place as the Tories launch a selection process for candidates to stand in European Parliament elections next month.

The government tabled an order enabling the elections to be held in Britain if the country has not left the EU by the time they are due to take place on May 23.

The Cabinet Office said the elections would automatically be cancelled if the UK left before then.

May is to make a whistle-stop trip to Berlin and Paris for last-minute talks with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron on the eve of the emergency summit.

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