Brexit: Cut MPs' Christmas break short for early vote on May's deal, says Corbyn

28 December 2018, 07:07 | Updated: 28 December 2018, 08:43

Jeremy Corbyn has urged Theresa May to cut short MPs' Christmas break for an earlier vote on her Brexit deal.

The Labour leader accused the prime minister of trying to "run down the clock" and offer MPs a choice between "the devil or the deep blue sea".

MPs are due to return to the Commons on Monday 7 January after a two-week Christmas recess and will begin a new debate on Mrs May's deal on 9 January.

A vote is expected to take place the following week but Mr Corbyn told The Independent it was in the PM's hands whether she should recall parliament a week early, on Wednesday 2 January.

"I want us to have a vote as soon as possible, that's what I've been saying for the past two weeks, and if that means recalling parliament to have the vote let's have it," he said.

"But it looks to me the government has once again reneged on that and tried to put it back another week."

He added: "What I suspect is that it's a completely cynical manoeuvre to run down the clock and offer MPs the choice of the devil or the deep blue sea."

A Downing Street source labelled Mr Corbyn's call a "silly demand", saying: "Following debate in the Commons, in the week commencing 14 January MPs will vote on the Brexit deal.

"Instead of making silly demands, Jeremy Corbyn should be honest with voters that he has no alternative plan, and only intends to frustrate Brexit - ultimately betraying the referendum result."

In his interview with The Independent, Mr Corbyn refused to be drawn on whether Labour would seek to extend Article 50 to keep the UK in the EU for longer.

He said: "Lots of things are possible, the EU has long form on reopening and extending negotiations, but let's not jump too many hoops when we haven't arrived at them."

Mr Corbyn has previously insisted Labour will continue with Brexit if the party wins a snap general election in the new year.

The Labour leader's latest comments came as John McDonnell dismissed the idea of an indicative vote to find which Brexit options MPs would be prepared to support if Mrs May's deal is rejected.

The shadow chancellor told the Financial Times such a move would "run the clock down even further towards March 29", when Britain is due to leave the EU.

Meanwhile, the EU's budget commissioner Gunther Oettinger - a member of Angela Merkel's CDU party - warned that the bloc's remaining member states would have to stump up if Britain does not pay the £39bn divorce bill.

Asked what impact a no-deal Brexit would have on the EU budget, he told the German newspaper Westfalische Rundschau: "It depends on whether, following a disorderly Brexit, the British would be prepared to fulfill their rights and obligations as contributors by the end of the financial year 2019.

"If this is not the case, next year a medium three-digit million amount will be added to Germany."