A 'frit' May would be guilty of a 'straight-up lie' if she pulls Brexit vote, says Cooper

PUBLISHED: 14:01 11 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:14 11 March 2019

Labour MP Yvette Cooper. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Theresa May would be guilty of telling the country a "straight-up lie" if she pulls votes in parliament this week allowing MPs a chance to delay Brexit, Yvette Cooper has claimed.

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Cooper said it would be “a complete derogation of duty” for the prime minister to drop votes on her Withdrawal Agreement, a no-deal Brexit and the extension of the Article 50 negotiation process.

Whether or not May wins on her deal, Cooper said it was time for her to ditch her “reckless and irresponsible” approach to Brexit and show leadership by “resetting the debate” on the way forward.

Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, accused the PM of retreating into her bunker instead of seeking consensus, and of allowing Brexit hardliners in the Tory European Research Group to “hijack the government and hijack the country”.

She said the government must use any extension of negotiations beyond March 29 to build a national consensus on what kind of relationship the country wants with Europe after Brexit.

Theresa May could be forced to extend Article 50. (Photograph: AP Photo/Francisco Seco)Theresa May could be forced to extend Article 50. (Photograph: AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

And she warned that if May refuses to do so, then parliament will be ready to take control of events and force a change of approach.

In a speech in London a day ahead of the “meaningful vote” on May’s Withdrawal Agreement, Cooper said: “There are rumours that the prime minister will pull the vote tomorrow, and then pull the votes on Wednesday and Thursday too.

“Whatever she does tomorrow, I don’t believe she will pull the votes on no-deal and extending Article 50. She gave me her word, she gave parliament her word. I don’t believe the prime minister will straight-up lie on something so important as this.”

Cooper said there were also rumours that May might abstain on Wednesday’s vote on whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal on March 29, or simply leave the country for talks in Brussels to avoid the vote.

“I can’t believe that can be true either,” she said. She’s the prime minister, she can’t be frit. To run away from that vote ... would be a complete derogation of duty.”

Cooper said that following the 230-vote defeat of May’s plan in January, the prime minister had delivered “the worst kind of chaos and brinkmanship”, failing to offer a Plan B or reach out to other parties.

“Theresa May needs to accept that her approach isn’t working, whether her deal gets through or not this week,” said Cooper.

“As prime minister, she needs to show some leadership and reset the debate. This is the point to pivot not to dig in.”

Cooper said she and others were working on cross-party amendments to give Parliament powers to take over control of the Brexit process if May tried to kick the can further down the road.

Any extension to Article 50 should be used to draw up a proper plan for the UK’s long-term relationship with the EU, she said.

The PM should offer a series of indicative votes, allowing MPs to express their preference between different options, ranging from a customs union or EEA-style involvement in the single market to the free trade deal proposed in May’s Chequers plans.

The government should publish a draft mandate for negotiations and letparliament debate it and amend it, said Cooper.

And when a final deal is reached “there may need to be some kind of public consent for it to endure - be that through a general election or a referendum”, she said, warning: “Otherwise, it just won’t last.”

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