LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May has warned senior Conservatives that Labour could use an ancient parliamentary mechanism to prevent Brexit from going ahead next March if MPs vote against her deal with the EU later this year.
Ministers were instructed by Downing Street to outline the possibility that Labour could arrange a vote to prevent a no-deal Brexit taking place and forcing May to seek to extend the negotiation period, according to a Financial Times report.
A minister told the paper: „We’ve been told by Number 10 that Labour would try to use the ‚humble address’ as a means to stop us leaving without a deal.”
Labour has resorted to a rarely-used ‚humble address’ twice in recent months to force the government to produce documents related to Brexit. Technically speaking, it is an instruction from the House of Commons that the Queen, through her ministers, perform a specific act.
Downing Street appears to believe that Labour could attempt to use the process in order to extend Article 50, the two-year EU exit process that ends in March next year.
The latest warning from Number 10 comes as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit becomes materially more likely. Theresa May’s Chequers plan — a blueprint for a soft departure from the EU — was received badly by Leave-supporting MPs and prompted a string of high-profile ministerial resignations.
Negotiators in Brussels also indicated that the proposals were unworkable.
In an interview with Business Insider last week , the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox warned May to rule out extending Brexit negotiations, saying to do so would be a „betrayal” of Leave voters.
„Tit-for-tat”: UK issues Brussels a Brexit threat
Britain also issued Brussels with a veiled threat on Tuesday, warning that thousands of European investment funds will be under threat if it does not seek to arrange a comprehensive trade deal with the City of London after Brexit.
Officials have begun laying out the risks of the „hardline approach” towards the City of London for the EU, which is being encouraged by the French, according to a Times report.
British negotiators reportedly told their counterparts that rules should be drawn up to allow British banks and financial firms to sell products across Europe because EU firms would lose out otherwise.