The Brexit Secretary has been left utterly unable to explain the government’s Plan B for Brexit in a baffling TV interview.
Tory Stephen Barclay was questioned repeatedly by the BBC on what will happen if MPs torpedo Theresa May’s deal with the EU on Tuesday.
MPs are expected to vote down the deal by more than 100 votes – the biggest Commons defeat since the Second World War – and Mrs May must present an alternative by Monday 21 January.
But Mr Barclay repeatedly dodged the question of what will come next in a legnthy exchange with flagship interviewer Andrew Marr.
An increasingly frustrated Mr Marr asked him five times what the plan was – and if Mr Barclay even knew it himself.
Eventually, the Cabinet minister lamely claimed MPs will support a Plan B "along the lines of" what MPs have already rejected.
He also admitted there is an "increased risk" of Parliament taking control of the entire process, with backbench MPs proposing a Plan B of their own.
Mr Barclay claimed there is "some movement" from MPs to support the Brexit deal.
But more than 100 Tory MPs have indicated they could vote against it.
In a plea for MPs to change their minds, he insisted: "It’s important the House comes to a view as to what it can back.
Key points from UK’s 611-page Brexit deal with EU
The Brexit deal agreed by Theresa May and the EU covers two areas: the Withdrawal Agreement, covering the UK’s exit from the EU, and the Political Declaration on a Future Framework, which sets out the relationship with the EU after Britain leaves.
Key details on the Brexit deal include:
1. The Withdrawal Agreement
- The transition period can be extended until 2022 – after the next election
- Goods face being checked between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK
- A ‘backstop’ could extend EU customs rules UK-wide – and we’d need Brussels’ permission to quit
- European courts will still have a big hold on the UK
2. The Future Framework
- "Comprehensive arrangements that will create a free trade area" – not exactly the "frictionless trade" hoped for
- Possible EU access to British fishing waters
- We would remain tied to European courts
- We’d respect human rights laws
- Visas needed for long term trips to the EU
- It has built in vagueness – kicking the can down the road for further negotiations
Read about the deal in more depth here.
"There are lots of different plans being put forward by Members of Parliament that don’t respect the result or risk no deal."
He added: "So those on the Brexiteer side seeking ideological purity with a deal are risking Brexit.
"Because there is a growing risk that events could unfold in ways that (mean) they are leaving the door ajar to ways that increase the risk to Brexit."
The Prime Minister is preparing to put her blueprint to a vote after a month’s delay, and is braced for the biggest defeat since the Second World War.
MPs are set against a ‘backstop’ that could trap the UK under EU customs rules from 2021 if there’s no agreement over the Northern Ireland border.
Mrs May wrote today that halting Brexit would be "a catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust in our democracy."
But MPs are rallying to try and put a legal block on a No Deal Brexit through the means of Parliament if the deal is defeated.
They could seize control of Commons process to put forward their own Plan B for what happens next – in what Mrs May’s allies brand a "coup".
Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn said he would call a no confidence vote in the government "soon" after defeat – which could trigger a general election as soon as March 7.
But he admitted he could not say exactly what Labour’s Brexit policy would be in such an election because it will be decided in a meeting of more than 50 people.
Stephen Barclay’s baffling exchange in full
BBC INTERVIEWER ANDREW MARR: Now I’m staring at your jacket as I’m rather hoping there’s a neatly folded piece of paper in your breast pocket or another pocket with Plan B written on it and you can bring it out now and tell us what Plan B is.
BREXIT SECRETARY STEPHEN BARCLAY: Well we’re committed to the vote on Tuesday. There’s still three days speaking with colleagues. We’ve seen from speeches in the House this week, whether it’s senior Conservatives such as George Freeman or whether senior Labour figures such as Jim Fitzpatrick that there is some movement in the House and our commitment is to –
AM; Not enough though. There’s not enough.
SB: We recognise that it is challenging. A lot of people rush to judgement with the vote, what was a complex document, 585 pages of the Withdrawal Agreement. Some people rushed out within minutes to give their verdict on it. So we’re working hard with colleagues, we’re working hard with EU leaders, the Prime Minister has been speaking to them in terms of the specific concerns we’ve heard, particularly on the issue of the backstop.
AM: But if you lose that vote and most people think you will, there will have to be another plan, Plan B. Do you know what it is and you’re not telling me or do you not know what it is?
SB: Well there is a process in place following that vote if we were to lose it in terms of the Prime Minister coming back to the House.
AM: But you must know, surely?
SB: But the issue is for parliament and for Members of Parliament is they face a choice in Tuesday between the certainty that the business community are looking for that is good for our security, is good for citizens’ rights. There’s a lot in this deal that members of all sides of the House.
AM: It’s almost certainly going to be voted down. It might not be but it’s likely to be voted down and the country has the right to know if it’s voted down what the government’s going to do next and that’s what I’m asking you.
SB: Well the country does have a right to know what Members of Parliament are for, not just what they are against and it’s important that the House comes to a view as to what it can back. There’s lots of different plans been put forward by Members of Parliament that don’t respect the referendum result of the risk of no deal which will give not just project fear which people say but project reality in terms of real term consequences.
AM: I kind of thought you were pro no deal in the end. If that’s what it had to be you’d go for no deal rather than any other option, wouldn’t you?
SB: Well, what I support is the deal that gives certainty that responds to the concerns of businesses.
AM: As I keep saying that might fall. I’m asking you what happens if it falls?
SB: Well it will be for the House to decide what it is able to support and I suspect it will be along the lines of this deal, because this is the deal that delivers on what people like me, Brexiteers like me campaigned for, whether that’s control of our immigration, putting an end to the vast sums of money, taking control of fishing and agriculture. So this delivers for Brexiteers but does so in a way that respects the needs of the business community. And MPs that vote for it will own the consequences of that.
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