HuffPost’s Paul Waugh thinks that in the end Labour won’t abstain on the second reading of the EU withdrawal agreement bill.
- Theresa May has been offered a possible lifeline ahead of a key vote on her Brexit deal next month after Labour refused to rule out abstaining. The government has announced that MPs will vote on the second reading of the EU withdrawal agreement bill in the first week in June, in what will effectively be the fourth vote on May’s withdrawal agreement. If the government were to lose, that would be fatal to May’s Brexit strategy, and her premiership, and there is no evidence she is winning over the MPs who voted against it last time. (See 9.25am.) But Labour has refused to rule out abstaining in the second reading vote. It is highly unusual for the opposition to abstain on such a major piece of legislation, and if Labour were to adopt this approach (which is nothing more than an option at the moment, based on this afternoon’s briefing), anti-Brexit members would be alarmed. But an abstention would lead to the bill getting a second reading, with the key vote effectively postponed until MPs voted on the amended bill at third reading. Labour’s move came as ministers argued that, if MPs were to vote down the bill, the UK would face a choice between no-deal and no Brexit. (See 11.17am.)
- The lead candidate for Change UK in Scotland’s European parliament contest has switched sides to the Liberal Democrats, in further signs the new party is struggling to consolidate itself or spread successfully across the UK. (See 10.36am.)
- Jeremy Corbyn has used PMQs to attack the “scandal of inequality in modern Britain”. He said:
In Great Yarmouth, one has just been opened for pupils at a school, and last week the department of business established a food bank for its own staff in the building on Victoria Street. Can the prime minister tell us what is going wrong in modern Britain that a government office in the centre of London has a food bank for some of its very low-paid staff to get something to eat?
In response, May argued that inequality was also a problem under Labour and that income inequality had fallen since 2010.
Here is more on Labour refusing to rule out abstaining on the second reading of the EU withdrawal agreement bill.
From the Daily Mirror’s Pippa Crerar
From the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn
From the Daily Mail’s Jason Groves
This is from my colleague Jessica Elgot.
Labour refuses to rule out abstaining on second reading of withdrawal agreement bill
And these are from the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn.
These are from my colleague Heather Stewart.
PMQs – Snap verdict
PMQs – Snap verdict: Yesterday, in response to Bridget Prentice’s resignation from the party, Labour issued a statement saying its “bold and popular policies under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership have changed the political conversation in this country” and today he focused on a topic, inequality, where undoubtedly opinion is moving his way. You can argue about how much this is due to Corbyn personally – even that bastion of neoliberalism, the IMF, was warning about inequality in 2014, long before Corbyn became Labour leader – but the announcement this week that the Institute for Fiscal Studies has launched a major review of the consequences of inequality is a clear vindication of one of core political themes. The IFS has always been much more associated with fiscal rectitude than social justice, and if even it recognises there is a problem, Corbyn is winning the argument. A sensible prime minister would recognise this, and engage. But instead May just refused to accept that there is anything wrong. It was an unconvincing performance that saw her easily outmatched by Corbyn.
But it was still all a bit underwhelming – largely because, with May effectively now at the point where she is working out her notice, who cares what she has to say anyway? This became painfully apparent when she had to respond to a question about the next spending round – which is one that will be overseen by her successor. In her exchanges with Corbyn, and the SNP’s Ian Blackford, it felt that May was not even trying particularly hard. But PMQs did throw up two policies issues where the debate over the coming months is likely to intensify. Corbyn proudly defended Labour’s plan to extend its real living wage to under-18s. There is a genuine debate to be had about whether this can be done without increasing youth unemployment, but the arguments did not really get much of a hearing today. Interestingly, May herself chose to raise another Labour proposal – its qualified support for universal basic income. But, again, the rights and wrongs of this were not thrashed out in today’s debate. That will have to wait for another day.
Corbyn used to make a point of using the “letter from an ordinary voter” device to frame an awkward question for the PM. Today it was the Tory Brexiter Peter Bone who tried this. It allowed him to tell May she should resign, but in a manner that discouraged a blunt response (because the activists who supposedly drafted this letter would deserve a polite reply). But Bone just got the usual May brush-off. Even calls for May’s resignation can’t really enliven PMQs very much now.
Stephen Kerr, a Conservative, says Scottish Tories see May as a trenchant champion of the union. Does May agree the shared prosperity fund will provide an opportunity to strengthen the union? Will it be led by needs, and not Barnettised?
May says the fund will strengthen the union, and it will be led be needs.
And that’s it. PMQs is over.
Peter Bone, a Conservative, says he has got an incredible group of activists in his constituency who have campaigned regularly for the party. But he has a letter from them. They do not like her Brexit deal. And they have lost confidence in May. They want her to resign before the European elections. What message does May have for them?
May praises all Conservatives who campaign. She thanks them for their work. This is a government that wants to deliver Brexit, she says. If MPs had voted for it, the UK would already be out, she says.
Labour’s Albert Owen says a constituent died after being shot with a crossbow outside his house. Will the law on crossbows be reviewed?
May says this is a very worrying story.
Labour’s Louise Haigh asks about a BBC report saying four children have been killed after family courts ordered that abusive parents should have access to them. Will she order a public inquiry?
May says new guidance on this was issued to courts last week. The Ministry of Justice has not seen evidence to justify an inquiry, she says, but she says justice minister will meet Haigh to discuss this.
Neil O’Brien, a Conservative, asks about access to a particular drug on the NHS.
May says she is pleased the NHS and Nice have reached an agreement to make it available.
Labour’s Caroline Flint asks May to welcome a ruling condeming the blacklisting of trade unionists. And does she agree that trade unions play an important role?
May says unions do have an important role to play. The government wants to see workers rights improved, she says.
Antoinette Sandbach, a Conservative, is asking a question about bereaved parents. But she is interrupted by an announcement from a speaker broadcasting into the chamber saying a fire alarm test has been completed.
May says this is a worrying time for British Steel workers. The government struck a deal with the company last month to help it meet its obligations under EU emissions laws.
Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire says the PM says it is her deal, no-deal or no exit. But MPs have voted against her deal and no-deal. So will she admit it is no Brexit or a second referendum.
May says MPs should vote to implement Brexit.