In what will surely be her final attempt to win parliamentary support for her proposed deal to take Britain out of the European Union, Theresa May has claimed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill due to go before MPs in early June will be a “bold offer“.
The bill is the piece of legislation required to enshrine the details of the prime minister's proposed Brexit deal in UK law. Parliament is due to vote on it during the week commencing June 3rd.
But with recent cross-party talks breaking down and little evidence that Mrs May has the parliamentary support required to get the bill through the House of Commons, this could be another high-profile defeat for the government.
A ‘new and improved' offer?
As several members of her own Conservative party plan bids to replace Mrs May as leader when she steps down, the prime minister is making a last-ditch attempt to gain one significant victory from her troubled premiership, having already seen her proposed withdrawal deal defeated three times in parliament.
Writing in the Sunday Times, she said the forthcoming vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will “truly be decision time for MPs”.
Regardless of the outcome of any indicative votes, Mrs May said she “will not be simply asking MPs to think again”.
“Instead I will ask them to look at a new and improved deal with a fresh pair of eyes – and to give it their support,” she added.
Speaking to the BBC, cabinet minister Rory Stewart said part of the “bold offer” to MPs will be related to workers' rights – one of the three key areas where the recent cross-party talks highlighted differences between the government and Labour. The other sources of disagreement were the environment and trading with the EU.
What are the chances of success?
Regardless of the prime minister's claims about how much has changed in the deal that will be put before parliament, there remains widespread scepticism about the exact terms of the withdrawal package and the likelihood of it winning cross-party support.
Jeremy Corbyn claimed the government hasn't made any significant moves away from the ‘red lines' that define her proposed Brexit deal.
In an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, the Labour leader said: “We haven't seen whatever the new bill is going to be yet, but nothing I've heard leads me to believe it is fundamentally any different from the previous bill that has been put forward, so as of now we are not supporting it.”
Vince Cable, whose Liberal Democrat party is campaigning on a ‘stop Brexit' message, said they would only back the government's deal if it included a confirmatory public referendum, something Mrs May has so far been unwilling to offer.
If, as is currently expected, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is defeated early next month, Britain is likely to find itself with just two options left: leaving the European Union with no deal, or revoking Article 50 and staying in the EU.
The first option is sure to cause a lot of uncertainty for the economy, businesses and the stock market, as the country will be heading into uncharted waters, particularly in terms of trade with the EU.
Despite the UK economy's fairly strong start to 2019, economic forecasters at EY Item Club have said the ongoing questions around Brexit will contribute to a slowdown in the second half of the year.
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