Labour backs cross-party amendment to block no-deal Brexit

An EU flag outside the Palace of Westminster
The amendment to the finance bill could restrict the government’s freedom over tax changes.
Labour is to support a backbench amendment tabled by Yvette Cooper that could force a government shutdown unless a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table.
The Labour frontbench is likely to whip its MPs to back the cross-party amendment, significantly increasing its chances of success in the Commons.
The amendment has the backing of a number of Labour and Conservative select committee chairs, including Tories Nicky Morgan and Sarah Wollaston, Labour’s Hilary Benn and Frank Field, the pro-Brexit chair of the work and pensions select committee.
The amendment to the finance bill, tabled over the weekend, is one of the first of a slew of parliamentary tactics expected to be adopted by MPs to try to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Its effect would be to restrict the government’s freedom to make Brexit-related tax changes without parliamentary safeguards.
The amendment would be attached to one clause in the finance bill, designed to give the government the power to keep tax law working in the event of a no-deal Brexit. If it is passed, it would mean that clause would only be allowed to come into force if there were either a Brexit deal, a decision to extend article 50, or a vote in the Commons specifically approving a no-deal Brexit.
Should the amendment fail, other bills that could be targeted with amendments include immigration, fisheries and trade.
“The risks to our economy and security from no deal are far too high and it would be irresponsible to allow it to happen,” Cooper said. “Time is running out and this is too serious for brinkmanship. Parliament needs to make sure there are opportunities to stop the country reaching the cliff edge by accident. This amendment helps to do just that.”
Morgan said that it was time for parliament to create a mechanism to stop no deal by default. “Many of us have been clear that parliament will not allow a no-deal situation to unfold, and with less than 12 weeks to go until 29 March it is time for parliament to show our opposition to a no-deal exit,” she said.
Other efforts are also under way to demonstrate the extent of parliamentary opposition to a no-deal Brexit. More than 200 MPs have signed a letter calling for Theresa May to rule out a no-deal Brexit. Tory ex-minister Dame Caroline Spelman, who organised the letter with Labour’s Jack Dromey, said the group had been invited to see the prime minister on Tuesday.
MPs returning to Westminster on Monday have also launched a new drive for parliament to coalesce around the so-called Norway-plus option championed by former Tory minister Nick Boles and Labour’s Stephen Kinnock.
On Monday, Labour former shadow minister Lucy Powell and Tory Robert Halfon, who chairs the education select committee, launched a detailed plan for a Norway-style compromise arrangement that would see the UK remain mostly within the European single market.
Their plan is laid out in a new pamphlet, entitled “Common market 2.0”, which says the UK should remain in the single market and ensure continuity in current customs arrangements.
In a joint statement to launch the report, Powell and Halfon said the route was “the only sensible, common-sense Brexit deal that can work” and called for more MPs to support the plans.
“Common market 2.0 offers Theresa May a last chance at a Brexit deal that can command a cross-party majority,” they said. “It is also the only deal that meets Labour’s six tests by delivering on Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a customs union and a strong single market deal.”
Kinnock said the plan “respects the 52/48 mandate [of the referendum result], commands a parliamentary majority, deals with concerns about free movement, removes the need for the backstop and reunites our deeply divided country.”


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