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‘Concrete proposals from May’ required for Brexit breakthrough

Sir Keir Starmer said there was “chaos at the heart of Government” over the approach to leaving the European Union.

The Government’s plans for Brexit are “in paralysis”, Labour claimed, amid speculation crucial legislation will be delayed again.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said there was “chaos at the heart of Government” over the approach to leaving the European Union.

But the Brexit department said it was “completely false” to suggest the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill had been pushed back, because no formal date for its return to the Commons had been fixed.

(PA Graphics)

The so-called repeal bill, which will put existing EU regulations on the domestic statute book, cleared its first Commons hurdle on September 11 but has not been debated since then.

Ahead of detailed scrutiny in the committee stage, MPs have tabled some 300 amendments and 54 new clauses, potentially causing headaches for Theresa May’s whips given that the precarious Commons majority secured with the help of the DUP would be vulnerable to any Tory revolt.

The official announcement of next week’s Commons business will take place on Thursday, but Labour sources indicated the Bill was not expected to be listed.

Sir Keir said: “This is further proof that the Government’s Brexit strategy is in paralysis.

“The negotiations are in deadlock and now a crucial piece of legislation is facing further delay.

“There is chaos at the heart of Government. Theresa May cannot unite her Cabinet or her party behind this deeply-flawed Bill.

“There are now serious questions about whether the Prime Minister can deliver Brexit.”

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom will confirm next week’s business in the regular statement on Thursday.

When the legislation was missing from last week’s statement Mrs Leadsom told MPs it was “taking a bit of time to have proper, thoughtful, well-considered responses” to the proposed changes, but the Bill would return “just as soon as we’re able to”.

That had been taken as a sign the Bill could return in next week’s business.

MPs are due to spend eight days debating the repeal bill at committee stage, which will then undergo further scrutiny in the Commons and the Lords before it is approved.

A Department for Exiting the European Union spokesman said: “The Withdrawal Bill is an essential piece of legislation in the national interest.

“It is completely false to suggest that there has been a delay to the Bill as it has yet to be scheduled to enter committee stage.

“The process is straightforward: the Leader of the House will announce the next week’s business at business questions tomorrow.”

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on EU Relations, said: “I am not at all surprised at this delay on the EU Withdrawal Bill – it is a badly-drafted Bill, and badly thought through.

“The number of amendments has given ministers a lot to think about, which shows Parliament is taking back control and is already doing its job of scrutiny well on this.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “The delays to this Bill make Southern Rail look punctual.

“It’s crystal clear there is no majority in Parliament or the country for the extreme form of Brexit this Government is pursuing.”

Mrs Leadsom said the Government was still working on its response to the hundreds of proposed amendments to the Bill.

“We are still working through the proposals made through amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and the department will be responding to those once we get into the committee stages,” she told the Commons Procedure Committee on Wednesday.

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