May set to offer MPs a vote on 2nd referendum

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LONDON (May 21): Theresa May will make a speech at 4 p.m. laying out a new proposal for getting her Brexit deal over the line. The premier is considering tighter customs ties with the European Union to try to win over Labour lawmakers, but the strategy risks angering Brexiteers in her government.

Key Developments:

May to offer votes on second referendum, customs options May’s speech due at 4 p.m. Pound gains Brexit hardliner Rees-Mogg says he won’t back May’s deal Sporting Index forecasts Farage’s Brexit Party will trounce May.

May Set to offer MPs a vote on second referendum (4 p.m.)
May is set to offer MPs a vote on whether to put her deal to a second referendum or not, according to three people familiar with the situation.

The vote would only happen if her Brexit bill passes the first stage of voting in parliament.

She will also allow MPs to vote on different options for post-Brexit customs arrangements, according to people familiar with the matter.

Parliament rejected a second referendum when it last had the chance to vote on the possibility.

Cabinet discussed free vote on referendum (3:30 p.m.)
Cabinet discussed the idea of allowing members of Parliament a free vote on the option of holding a second Brexit referendum, according to two people familiar with the meeting. Pro-Brexit ministers pushed back against the idea.

A free vote would let MPs decide as they like on whether to hold another public vote on leaving the EU, rather than being instructed by party whips.

What could be on offer? (2:35 p.m.)
Theresa May is promising tweaks to her deal, but since the EU has repeatedly said it won’t reopen the withdrawal agreement, what could be on offer?

While the agreement can’t be touched, Brussels is open to redrafting the political declaration on future ties — which sits alongside it and isn’t binding anyway — to reflect a closer customs bond with the bloc. The final trade deal won’t be hashed out until after the U.K. has left.

May has also indicated she could make commitments on workers’ rights and environmental protections. Those issues were discussed in cross-party talks and some common ground was found. That’s a matter for domestic legislation so the EU wouldn’t care.

If May were to make any kind of offer on a second referendum, the EU would be fine with that too.

What won’t be on offer are changes to the Irish backstop, as that’s in the divorce deal that the EU says can’t be changed.

Customs arrangements to be key focus ( 2 p.m.)
Theresa May’s "new deal" on Brexit will include plans for customs arrangements between the U.K. and the EU, according to people familiar with the matter.

The government has been drafting new clauses for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to ensure there is no need for checks on goods at the border with the EU, the people said.

A full customs union was a key demand from Labour in cross-party talks — but pro-Brexit Tories hate the idea, because it would stop Britain being free to strike trade agreements with other countries around the world.

What to look for in May’s speech (1:25 p.m.)
The Cabinet knows that the deal has to have “significant new aspects” to pass, and is determined to get it through Parliament, according to a government spokesman.

But what would it need to include to get over the line?

Labour wants a customs union, something May has ruled out because it would make it impossible to deliver the Brexiteers’ dream of an independent trade policy. But in recent weeks she has been hinting that she could make concessions on this point.

The trouble is that probably won’t be enough. Rob Hutton has crunched the numbers on this and she would probably have to offer some kind of second referendum to win enough Labour lawmakers over.

The more she offers to get Labour on board, the more support from her own side she loses. And with the leadership campaign already under way unofficially, many pro-Brexit Tories have no good reason to back her.

McDonnell: Labour unlikely to back deal (1:20 p.m.)
John McDonnell, Labour’s economy spokesman, said it’s unlikely the party will back Theresa May’s Brexit plan, no matter “how effusive” her “bold” new offer is today. He said Labour wants a permanent customs union and would not support the government if it only offers one until the next general election — currently scheduled for 2022.

“Even the statement today, no matter how effusive, it’s very difficult to see how they can sustain any deal with us,” McDonnell told reporters in Westminster. “Particularly when there’s a change of leadership and a number of candidates have indicated they’d tear up the new deal.”

“The outstanding problem is still the instability of the government, whatever they bring forward,” McDonnell said.

MPs Cite Brexit With British Steel on Brink (1:05 p.m.)
A succession of Members of Parliament have flagged the impact of Brexit on the future of British Steel, the manufacturer whose future hangs in the balance as its private equity owners seek an emergency bailout from the government.

Former Business Minister Richard Harrington — whose remit covered the manufacturer until he quit in March — told the House of Commons that one of the biggest problems facing British Steel is “the uncertainty about the trading relationship with the European Union and outside the European Union.”

Answering a question from Harrington about MPs who have opposed Theresa May’s Brexit deal, his successor, Andrew Stephenson, said “all members of the House should reflect on the real-world impact of decisions that they make in this place, or the lack of decisions, on the businesses, and how that can affect thousands of jobs and whole towns across the U.K.”

May to lay out new plan in speech (1 p.m.)
Theresa May will make a speech at 4 p.m. Tuesday laying out a new proposal for getting her Brexit deal through Parliament, her spokesman, James Slack, told reporters in London.

“The Withdrawal Agreement Bill is the vehicle which gets the U.K. out of the European Union and it is vital to find a way to get it over the line,” May told Cabinet, according to Slack.

Cabinet discussed all conceivable Brexit options as they worked on the plan to be put to Parliament, Slack said, adding that ministers showed their determination to get the bill over the line. Nobody had resigned, he said.

The government knows the Brexit deal must include “significant new aspects” to pass, Slack said.

May to make statement on Brexit Plan: BBC (12:30 p.m.)
Theresa May is likely to make a statement Tuesday on her Brexit offer, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said on Twitter.

Miller says Corbyn stance costing votes (12:20 p.m.)
The opposition Labour Party could win 15 more seats in this week’s European elections if its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, adopted a clear stance against Brexit, according to Gina Miller — the Remain campaigner who successfully challenged the government’s initial plans to trigger Brexit without consulting Parliament.

As things stand, Labour is likely to win 20 of the 70 seats up for grabs in the European Parliament in Thursday’s vote, according to Miller’s tactical voting initiative. But if Labour backed holding a second referendum with a clear stance in favor of remaining, it could win 35 seats — half of the total, and eclipsing Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party’s 23, according to the study.

“Our research shows clearly that Mr. Corbyn’s unwillingness to get off the fence on Brexit is causing real damage to his Party’s electoral prospects,” Miller said in a statement.

The research shows the difficulty Corbyn faces in striking a balance. A lifelong Euroskeptic, he backed Remain in 2016, but has since said his party would honor the result while opposing Theresa May’s Brexit deal. He’s said he supports a public vote on May’s deal, and on Saturday moved closer to accepting a fresh referendum on any Brexit deal, including a Labour one.

Rees-Mogg says he won’t back deal (10 a.m.)
Conservative member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg said he won’t back May’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill. The pro-Brexit hardliner explained that he only backed it last time to try to get the U.K. out of the EU “broadly on time.”

Speaking on his regular podcast, The Moggcast, Rees-Mogg described May’s agreement with the EU as a “very bad deal” and said there was no point in backing it now that Brexit has been delayed.

“As we’ve already delayed it’s hard to see any point in having a bill which fails to avoid the European elections, fails to get us out on time, fails to get the process going that might have worked with a new leader coming in because Mrs May said if it came in she would go.”

Rees-Mogg joins former Brexit Secretary David Davis in opposing May. Davis told the BBC on Tuesday that he had decided not to support her Brexit deal, despite having done previously.

Leadsom is prepared to leave with no deal (Earlier)
Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom, a Brexiteer, said May will set out “reassuring” alternative arrangements to tackle the issue of the Irish backstop as she tries to get her Brexit bill through Parliament.

Leadsom told BBC radio that while she would rather the government secured a deal with the EU, she would be prepared to leave without one in the fall. She also set out her conditions to keep supporting May’s bill, amid reports there could be Cabinet resignations if the prime minister moves too close to Labour’s position.

Labour wants a customs union with the EU, and while May says she won’t accept a customs union, she’s hinted that she could be open to some kind of close trading pact.

“The key for me will be that it does deliver Brexit,” Leadsom said. “I would define the difference between a customs union and a customs arrangement as being in a customs arrangement you can still write your own trade deals with the rest of the world.”