There was an outrage on Sunday when the British Prime minister, Theresa May suggested that the parliament may not be able to vote on her Brexit deal until March 12, just days before Britain leaves the EU.
The decision increases the chances that MPs will move next week to delay Brexit beyond March 29, to avoid a potentially disastrous situation where Britain exits with no agreement at all.
May had held out the possibility of a vote this week but said Sunday she was still discussing with the EU possible amendments to the deal’s arrangements for the Irish border.
She said at a summit in Egypt, “As we’re continuing with those talks, we won’t bring a meaningful vote to parliament this week.
“But that will happen by March 12. And we still have it within our grasp to leave the European Union with a deal on March 29.”
Since MPs rejected her withdrawal deal last month, May has sought to address their concerns about the text’s “backstop” arrangement, which is designed to keep the border with Ireland free flowing.
She is meeting with European Council chief Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the two-day summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, and her team will also return to Brussels on Tuesday.
But opposition politicians and pro-European MPs in London reacted with fury at what they believe is a deliberate strategy of delay.
Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said her move not to hold a vote this week was “the height of irresponsibility and an admission of failure”.
“Theresa May is recklessly running down the clock in a desperate attempt to force MPs to choose between her deal and no deal,” he said.
“Parliament cannot stand by and allow this to happen.”