Theresa May said to mull move to restrict no-deal Brexit threat

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is considering a move that could water down her threat to crash Britain out of the European Union without a deal, according to a person familiar with her thinking. 

May is said to be weighing whether to accept a plan drafted by pro-EU politicians who want to make it harder to leave the bloc with no divorce agreement in place.

The proposal in question - an amendment to the Finance Bill - is intended to limit the Treasury’s tax raising powers if there’s a no-deal split. 

May’s advisers will wait until they know if the proposal has been selected for a vote in Parliament on Tuesday before announcing if they will back it or oppose it. That the premier’s team is even thinking of accepting the proposed change to her key budget legislation is a sign of how weak her position is as she battles to steer Britain out of the EU. 

Next week May will put her Brexit deal to a crucial vote in Parliament and it is facing defeat as Euroskeptics in her Conservative Party as well as the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her minority administration, have said they will vote against it.

If Parliament rejects May’s deal in the vote next week, she says the country could be forced out of the EU with no agreement in place. On Sunday, May restated her position that no deal is better than a bad deal and has stepped up contingency planning in case negotiators fail to reach an accord in time for exit day on March 29. 

Deal or no deal

Officials in the Treasury are said to be relaxed about the impact of Tuesday’s proposed amendment, which would mean government could only vary taxation rules through an executive order if Parliament backs an agreed deal, postpones the divorce by extending Article 50 or a majority of MPs vote for a no-deal split.

But the premier’s opponents will seize on the political significance of another climb down on her Brexit strategy.

The change was proposed by Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper and is backed by Tories including Nicky Morgan, Nick Boles and Oliver Letwin. Boles said it would be the first of many.

“This amendment will not on its own prevent a ‘no deal’ Brexit, but it gives the House of Commons an opportunity to express its views about the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal,” Boles said. “We will be looking to bring forward similar amendments to other bills until the Government accepts the will of the majority of MPs and categorically rules out leaving the EU with no deal.”

The Treasury issued an official statement saying it is waiting on developments. “We consider all amendments on their own merit before responding to them in debate and we will do the same with these,” it said in a statement.

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