UK Politics

Brexit delay 'inevitable', says Jeremy Corbyn

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn says Labour would negotiate a customs union "inclusive and designed to ensure that our jobs are protected"

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says it is "inevitable" that the government will have to delay Brexit.

Mr Corbyn told MPs that there was "no chance" that all the legislation needed will pass in time for 29 March, when the UK is due to leave the EU.

MPs are debating proposed changes to the PM's Brexit plan, including a Labour amendment that aims to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Corbyn also said his party would back a three-month delay to Article 50.

Opening the debate in the House of Commons, the prime minister said she will seek to re-open negotiations with the EU over the Northern Ireland backstop - the insurance policy to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

A series of votes on the amendments is expected from 19:00 GMT.

Speaking after Mrs May opened the debate, Mr Corbyn said the "first duty" of MPs was to "block a disastrous no deal".

"Labour's amendment... starts by calling for sufficient time for Parliament to vote on options that prevent leaving with no deal," he said.

"But whatever happens in the votes that follow, it has now become inevitable that the government will have to extend Article 50 (the mechanism by which the UK leaves the EU) in any scenario."

He said if the government was "serious" about keeping the "threat of no deal" on the table, "then it's not even close to being prepared and the exit date would have to be extended".

"Even if the prime minister's deal was to somehow achieve a majority in this House next month, there is no chance that the necessary legislation - primary legislation and an extensive category of second legislation, I believe there are over 600 statutory instruments - could clear this place between now and 29 March," he said.

Labour's amendment instructs the government to rule out a "no deal scenario" and allows Parliament to consider - and vote on - options including an alternative Brexit deal and legislating to hold a public vote.

Mr Corbyn said Labour would also back an amendment tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit.

This amendment would create a bill enabling Article 50 to be delayed by up to nine months if the government does not have a plan agreed in Parliament by the end of February.

But Mr Corbyn said he would back a three month delay to allow time for the renegotiation of the Brexit deal with the EU.

Mrs May dismissed the Cooper amendment, saying it "does not rule out a no deal, it simply delays the point of decision".

"When I go back to Brussels to seek the changes this house demands, I need the strongest possible support behind me," she said.

"Most of the amendments before us do not provide that. They create a cacophony of voices when this House needs to speak as one."

Conservative MPs have been instructed by the government to vote for Sir Graham Brady's amendment, which calls on "alternative arrangements" to the backstop.

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