Theresa May is braced for what could be her final Commons showdown as she prepares to put her Withdrawal Agreement to MPs for a third time.
The Prime Minister has been frantically trying to garner support over the past few days ahead of what looks set to be a knife-edge vote.
Downing Street confirmed that MPs would get another chance to decide whether to back the Withdrawal Agreement, although the process will not be in the form of a “meaningful vote” as it has been twice before.
The Commons drama will unfold on the original March 29 Brexit day, with protestors expected to descend on Westminster to oppose the ongoing delay.
Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom told MPs that the House of Commons will hold an unscheduled sitting today to consider a motion on EU withdrawal.
Ms Leadsom suggested that MPs would be asked to approve the Withdrawal Agreement reached last November, but not the Political Declaration setting out plans for a future trade and security relationship with the EU.
It is thought that the decision was made not to attempt a third “meaningful vote” after the Speaker John Bercow indicated that he would block such a move based on Parliamentary precedent.
Passing the Withdrawal Agreement alone would allow the UK to qualify for an extension in Brexit talks to May 22 under the terms set down by the European Council last week.
But it would not fulfil the requirements of last year’s EU Withdrawal Act, which stipulates that both elements must be approved by MPs to pass the “meaningful vote” allowing the deal to be ratified.
The Prime Minister must secure Commons approval for her deal by 11pm for the UK to be granted an automatic delay to May 22 of the date on which it leaves the EU.
Downing Street has previously indicated that a third “meaningful vote” would only be attempted if the Prime Minister felt there was a credible chance of success, after its defeat by 230 votes in January and 149 in March.
But despite Mrs May promising her departure in return for parliamentary support this week, she has crucially failed to win the backing the Democratic Unionist Party, who said yesterday that its opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement remained unchanged.
And Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would not accept any attempt to separate the Withdrawal Agreement from the Political Declaration, which he warned would result in “the blindest of blindfold Brexits”.
“We would be leaving the EU, but with absolutely no idea where we are heading,” Sir Keir told a conference of the British Chambers of Commerce.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, who swung behind the deal this week, suggested a way could still be found to get the DUP on board.
“I’m in favour of the deal and I hope the DUP will come over to the deal but we’ll have to wait and see what they do,” he said.