Barnsley Council leader in national unity appeal as he urges MPs to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal – for now

THE long-standing Labour leader of a Yorkshire council has today urged MPs to implement Theresa May’s Brexit deal – and put it back to the people in five years’ time – after the Prime Minister put off another crucial Commons vote.

Monday, 25th February 2019, 06:11 am
Updated Monday, 25th February 2019, 06:17 am
Sir Steve Houghton is the leader of Barnsley Council.

Sir Steve Houghton, who heads Barnsley Council, made the intervention in a bid to end the political paralysis at Parliament, and honour the public’s decision to leave the European Union, as Mrs May desperately seeks 11th hour concessions.

Prime Minister Theresa May meets with EU Council President Donald Tusk at the EU-League of Arab States Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

Yet, while the Prime Minister says she intends to put her Withdrawal Agreement to a meaningful vote in Parliament by March 12, and that a deal with the EU is “within our grasp” which would satisfy the concerns of sufficient MPs who defeated her original blueprint by a record 230 votes, the Government is under renewed pressure to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

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It comes after three senior Remain-supporting Cabinet ministers – Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke – broke ranks to call for Brexit to be delayed if Parliament does not, or cannot, approve a deal in the coming days.

Speaking on her way to an EU-League of Arab States summit in Egypt, the Prime Minister denied that “collective responsibility” had broken down as backbench MPs, headed by Pontefract, Castleford and Normanton’s Yvette Cooper, prepare fresh attempts to defer Brexit by tabling a series of new motions which are due be put before the Commons this week.

Yet, with less than five weeks until Britain is supposed to leave the EU on March 29, Sir Steve says there is insufficient time to reconcile the more contentious issues.

Writing exclusively in The Yorkshire Post, the senior statesman of local government says economic and political stability will only be achieved if a way forward is found which “the British people deem fair and acceptable”.

“This means agreeing the deal on offer. A no-deal Brexit is too uncertain,” warned Sir Steve, whose borough voted 68 per cent in favour of leaving the EU.

“In return, Parliament should agree to a further referendum in five years’ time. First, this would allow the outstanding issues on trade and the Irish Border to be resolved. Second, the terms on which re-entry to the EU can be made can be identified. Third, the British people can experience life outside the EU for themselves.”

Acknowledging that his plan does risk “five more years of uncertainty”, Sir Steve – who backed Remain in the 2016 referendum – said voters would be less reliant on the conjecture of politicians as he called for changes to confront a “culture of disinformation” and “fake news spin” which is undermining democracy in his view.

Rejecting the case for another referendum – or election – this year because neither would heal the country’s bitter divisions, he added: “What we must do is secure our economy, but give ourselves the right to change our minds in due course.”

THERESA May has rejected calls for a deferral of Brexit after holding further talks with the EU leaders.

“Now, often people talk about the extension of Article 50 as if that will actually solve the issue. Of course it won’t. It defers the point of decision,” said Mrs May, who is due to address Parliament tomorrow.

But Sir Keir Starmer – Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary – described the latest delay to Brexit votes as “an admission of failure”.

“Theresa May is recklessly running down the clock in a desperate attempt to force MPs to choose between her deal and no deal,” he said. “Parliament cannot stand by and allow this to happen.”