The Prime Minister was ready to fly to Brussels to agree a revised deal with the European Commission President. But following the phone call with Jean-Claude Juncker, she cancelled plans to travel to the Belgian capital, with Downing Street sources warning negotiations are currently “deadlocked”. “Technical” talks had also taken place between officials from all sides over the weekend in a desperate search to find a breakthrough.
News broke this morning following the call that May is likely to change Tuesday’s key vote in parliament on her deal to a less decisive provisional vote, raising the prospect of more uncertainty – a move that will infuriate Brexiteers who just want the PM to get on with the job.
Downing Street insisted the Meaningful Vote on her deal will go ahead tomorrow.
However, Number 10 is said to be cagey on what the vote will look like with the Prime Minister’s spokesman has refused to rule the vote will be “provisional”.
And soon after the spokesman’s answers, and after it was announced Mrs May faces new questions from Jeremy Corbyn over Brexit this afternoon, the prime minister called Mr Juncker again.
Sources in Brussels said discussions were “constructive” during her first phone call and focused on a text that would help Attorney General Geoffrey Cox reverse his legal advice that the backstop could leave Britain “indefinitely” trapped in a customs union.
An European Commission spokesman said of the meeting: “They took stock of the work done.
”No further meetings at political-level are scheduled but both sides are in close contact this week.”
Member states have yet to be briefed on the finer details of this weekend’s talks, but EU27 ambassadors have been summoned to a secret meeting to discuss this latest wor
According to unnamed sources this morning however it is believed May will likely change the vote “from a meaningful vote to a provisional one”
Theresa May has been looking for further concessions from the EU on her Brexit deal, particularly round the Irish backstop issue, since she suffered a crushing 230 meaningful vote defeat in the Commons in January.
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But with talks still at a standstill, the Prime Minister could face the same humiliating fate tomorrow night when MPs again vote on her Brexit deal.
If her deal is rejected in the second meaningful vote in the Commons, MPs will be given the chance to vote on a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday.
Should that option also be rejected, they would then vote on whether to extend Article 50 and delay Britain’s exit from the European Union – something Mrs May has always insisted won’t happen.
The latest blow to the Prime Minister comes after Conservative MPs urged her to pull the meaningful vote on her Brexit deal in the Commons tomorrow night because it is “inevitable” it will be defeated by a three-figure margin.
She is being urged to table a “conditional” motion setting out the terms for dealing with the backstop issue, which Parliament would be willing to accept.
Those who would support the plan say this would send a strong message to the EU about the type of Brexit deal that might ultimately receive the all-important backing from Parliament.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group (ERG), told The Times the scenario “would not be a foolish way to proceed”.
He said: “I think a meaningful vote with an addendum saying this House will support a deal if such and such is done might be a way of uniting the party or limiting the scale of the defeat.”
Former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell added: “Anything that avoids what looks like a massive defeat on Tuesday is worth considering.”
One Conservative Party source told the newspaper: “As it stands, her deal is going to be defeated.
“It has been made clear to Downing Street that it would be eminently sensible to avoid that by proposing a motion that the party can support.
“Whether they listen or not is another matter.”
But delaying the meaningful vote would be another massive humiliation for the Prime Minister, after senior ministers spent the weekend insisting it would go ahead as planned.
Mrs May had already postponed it once from December, only to suffer a crushing defeat the following month by a majority of 230 votes.