Theresa May was today accused by a senior Yorkshire MP of “merely postponing the inevitable” by delaying the crunch Brexit vote as her decision to go back to Brussels for further negotiations prompted a furious reaction in the Commons.
The Prime Minister endured heavy criticism from both sides of the aisle after announcing that tomorrows vote on her proposed withdrawal agreement from the European Union would not go ahead.
Mrs May will now travel to Europe over the coming days in the hope of securing new reassurances from fellow EU leaders to allay MPs’ concerns about proposed backstop arrangements for the Irish border.
In an afternoon where the Prime Minister took questions for more than two-and-half hours following her statement to a packed Commons, Leeds Central MP and chair of the Brexit select committee Hilary Benn was among the first to criticise her approach.
He told Mrs May that her ‘red lines’ for the Brexit agreement with European leaders, such as leaving the customs union and ending freedom of movement, created the current chaos.
He said: “It’s her red lines that have created the problems of the border in Northern Ireland that led to the backstop that brought her to the House of Commons today in such a weak position.”
Mr Benn asked whether any EU leaders had said they were prepared to renegotiate the backstop protocol as “in the absence of any such commitment isn’t cancelling tomorrow’s vote merely postponing the inevitable”.
Later, Tory former Minister Andrew Percy told MPs that Leave voters fear a “stitch-up” is taking place in the Commons by people who do not accept the Brexit vote. Calls for a second EU referendum have included suggestions some people were unclear about what they voted for in the 2016 referendum.
Mr Percy, who represents Brigg and Goole in East Yorkshire, said: “Leave voters are sick to the back teeth of being told by Remainers, people who lost the referendum, what it was they voted for.
“We’ve been told we’re racists, we’re a bit stupid, a bit too northern and now we’re being told we didn’t know what we voted for.
“My constituents are none of those things and what they can see going on in this place is a stitch-up by people who said they accepted the result of the referendum, who are using every single trick in the book to deny the people what they voted for.”
Mrs May replied: “You speak with passion on behalf of your constituents and you are right to do so. I think it is frankly unacceptable for members in this House to try to suggest to people that they simply didn’t understand what they were voting for.
“The people of this country understood what they voted for, they knew what they wanted in terms of leaving the European Union and we should listen to that.”
The decision to pull the meaningful vote, where the Government was expected to be heavily defeated, came despite official confirmations it was going ahead yesterday morning and Environment Secretary Michael Gove rejecting the idea of a delay.
Home Affairs select committee chair and West Yorkshire MP Yvette Cooper said the Prime Minister’s decisions made UK democracy look “ridiculous”. She said: “Does she not realise how chaotic and ridiculous this makes our country look?”