British MPs may be forced to vote on a “preferred” way forward on Brexit – without the opportunity to reject all the options put to them.
Talks between the UK Conservative and Labour parties aimed at finding a compromise way forward are due to resume next week .
Labour has called for a new permanent customs union with the EU – something the UK Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly ruled out.
Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell described the talks as “positive” and “constructive” but refused to reveal whether the Government had moved on any of its red lines.
On the BBCs Andrew Marr Show, the UKs de-facto Deputy Prime Minister David Liddington said the talks must not be allowed to drag on for months.
He said next week’s meeting will focus on issues including environmental standards, workers rights and the new security relationship with the EU.
“We would hope to take stock of where we are as soon as Parliament gets back after the Easter recess,” he said.
“But I don’t think that this question can be allowed to drag out for much longer.
“I think the public rightly wants politicians to get on and deal with it.”
He said that if the talks break down, the Government will return to the House of Commons for further votes.
“What we will want to move towards is to put before Parliament a set of options – with a system for making a choice and Parliament actually having to come to a preferred option rather than voting against everything,” he said.
Asked about the possibility of a confirmatory referendum, he said the UK Government’s position is “very clear.”
“It hasn’t changed,” he said. “We think that the public came to clear view in 2016 – with all parties and both campaigns having said to them, ‘your decision is going to be final.’”
“If you look at what has happened in the House of Commons in recent votes, a referendum has come up; it has been voted on and it has been defeated, even though every Conservative MP – apart from Cabinet members who abstained on all the options – had a free vote.
“A second referendum still went down to defeat and I just question whether there is a majority for it in the House of Commons.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is coming under increasing pressure from his own party members to fully commit the party’s support to a confirmatory referendum.
This morning, Richard Corbett, the leader of the party’s 20 MEPs, said failure to clearly support a second referendum could see the party losing millions of young voters to rivals with a clearer message.
“If Labour does not re-confirm its support for a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal in its manifesto then it will haemorrhage votes to parties who do have a clear message,” he said.
“If, on the other hand, we do offer clarity and a confirmatory ballot, we could do very well.”
European leaders agreed to push the official Brexit date back to Halloween at last week’s special summit in Brussels.
The deal includes a break clause that will allow to the UK to leave earlier if the House of Commons can pass the EU Withdrawal Agreement.