McDonnell says labour highly likely to support Brexit delay plan

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Labour in the UK are “highly likely” to support a plan to delay the UK’s exit from the EU if a Brexit deal is not achieved by the end of next month, the shadow chancellor has suggested.

John McDonnell described the cross-party Bill – backed by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Tory Nick Boles – as “sensible” and said it was “increasingly likely” that his party would back it.

Meanwhile, former British chancellor George Osborne has told the BBC that a “delay looks like the most likely option”.

The group of British MPs are seeking to give time for a Bill to suspend the Article 50 withdrawal process if there is no new deal with Brussels by the end of February.

Mr McDonnell told BBC Two’s Newsnight: “Yvette Cooper has put an amendment down, which I think is sensible.

“It says to the Government you’ve run down the clock so much, it looks as though if you can’t get a deal by February 26… the Government will then have to bring forward proposals to extend that.

“So I think it’s increasingly likely already that we’ll have to take that option because the Government has run the clock down.”

Mr McDonnell said Labour had to go through its own party processes to determine whether they would back it, but added: “It’s highly likely but we’ll go through our normal process of consultation with our members.”

Mr Osborne, speaking to the BBC in Davos, compared no deal to Russian roulette, saying the prospect of Britain crashing out of the bloc means “the gun is held to the British economy’s head”.

He added: “I think at the moment delay looks like the most likely option because at least that gives some space to explore whether there’s an alternative deal on the table.

“I doubt there is, but that’s worth exploring, or whether we need to resolve this through a referendum.”

It comes after businessman Sir James Dyson delivered a blow to Brexit Britain after announcing he is to relocate the Dyson head office from the UK to Singapore.

He was heavily criticised for the move, which Liberal Democrat Layla Moran said smacked of “staggering hypocrisy”, while Solicitor General Robert Buckland said he was “disappointed” by the announcement.

The bombshell move will mean Dyson is no longer a British registered company and Singapore will become its main tax base.

And in a further blow, ferry giant P&O announced it is to re-register its UK fleet under the Cyprus flag ahead of Brexit.

Elsewhere, a report leaked to Sky News suggested Border Force planning for a no-deal Brexit warns of “significant outbound queues” at the Eurostar and a potential “degradation” of border security.

The presentation by the Home Office agency, seen by Sky, also predicted there could be a “loss of data” and a potential surge in non-EU passenger traffic if there is a reduction in the value of the pound.

Ms Cooper’s amendment is one of several tabled by MPs to the British Prime Minister’s deal, the rejection of which by an overwhelming 230 votes last week has thrown into doubt proposals for a backstop to keep the Irish border open.

In a break from usual procedures, the amendments will be voted on by MPs on January 29 in another day of high Brexit drama in the Commons which could put Mrs May under intense political pressure to change course.

One plan, tabled by Tory Dame Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey, would effectively rule out a no-deal Brexit.

Another, from Conservative former attorney general Dominic Grieve, would give MPs powers to take control of the parliamentary agenda on a series of days in the run-up to the official date of EU withdrawal on March 29 to pass resolutions on the way ahead.

Labour’s Hilary Benn is hoping to secure a range of indicative votes on various Brexit options.

And the chairman of the Commons Northern Ireland Committee, Conservative Andrew Murrison, put forward proposals – which he said were designed to appeal to “moderate MPs who just want Brexit sorted” – for a time limit on the backstop.

Labour’s frontbench tabled its own amendment calling for a vote on the party’s plan for a customs union with the EU and on whether to legislate for a public vote.

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