Theresa May warns of damage to 'social cohesion' from fresh European Union referendum

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday spelled out a "Plan B" for Brexit that appeared very much like a warmed-over version of her Plan A, which suffered a crushing defeat in Parliament last week.

If the Government fails, then Parliament would be given a vote on whether to extend Article 50 by nine months to avoid no deal.

Meanwhile, Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl poured cold water on a suggestion by her Polish counterpart that the Irish border backstop, a key stumbling block in the Brexit deal process, could be time-limited.

She also played down expectations the European Union could agree to extend Article 50 to give the United Kingdom more time to negotiate beyond the current divorce date on 29 March, saying: "Where is the added value of the new British suggestion?"

On Monday, May appeared before a British parliament anxious to hear a "Plan B" after lawmakers rejected the withdrawal agreement she signed with Europe past year.

An amendment, previously adopted by the legislators, states that May has to work out a new plan of action in just 10 weeks, before the country is set to exit the European Union on 29 March 2019.

Labour MP Hilary Benn complained that while the PM's door had been open "her mind remained closed" by rejecting a customs union option "even though she knows it is essential". Corbyn's backing for the move is highly significant: As leader of the official opposition, he is nearly certain to get a chance to put his plan to a vote in the House of Commons on January 29.

But after she briefed the Cabinet in a conference call on Sunday about her first round of cross-party contacts last week, there was little expectation she was ready to offer concessions that could win over opposition MPs.

Noting that worldwide trade secretary Liam Fox had complained that MPs were trying to steal Brexit, he said: "They have had it served up to them on a plate through a wide-open window".

She refused to give into demands from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and others to take no deal off the table - arguing the only way of doing that was either agreeing a deal or cancelling Brexit all together.

It is also created to keep on board different wings of the party which back a "Norway-style" Brexit and a second referendum.

The Labour leadership is now walking the tightrope of wanting to offer MPs a vote on a second referendum without actually endorsing the plan itself.

Instead, however, she anticipated there would be "further meetings" this week to seek a position that might get parliamentary support, ahead of a parliamentary debate on January 29 (but on a "neutral motion", not a new deal).

According to the Times, Remainer Ms Rudd has warned Theresa May of potential resignations if ministers can't vote for an amendment tabled by Labour's Yvette Cooper and Tory Nick Boles, which calls for Article 50 to be extended if no deal is reached by February 26.

Supporters of Brexit say that while there may be some short-term disruption, the warnings of chaos are overblown and that in the long term, Britain will thrive if it cuts loose from what they cast as a doomed German-dominated experiment in European unity.

The Prime Minister struck a more inclusive tone, emphasizing the importance of worker's rights and the environment in an attempt to appeal to Labour lawmakers. "I remember the customs checks, I remember the 24-hour rule, I remember seeing soldiers, and I never want to see any of that ever again". "I believe this would go against the referendum result", May said. "This is a negotiation between the European Union and the UK", McEntee told national broadcaster RTE.

Last week, Mr Varadkar reinforced his position that Ireland would implement any infrastructure on the border with Northern Ireland. Downing Street said it was "extremely concerned" by the backbenchers' moves.

  • Wendy Palmer