No changes to PM statement because of Labour motion threat, says Downing Street

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Downing Street has denied a Labour claim that it was forced to announce a date for the meaningful vote because of the threat of a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister.

A source said it was “incorrect” that the threatened procedure, which the opposition announced shortly before Mrs May’s statement, forced a late change to her address to the Commons.

Jeremy Corbyn told MPs after Mrs May’s statement that the Government had “been dragged kicking and screaming to announce a date to re-start the debate”.

The Downing Street source said that a copy of her statement was sent to the opposition at 3pm “give or take”, about 30 minutes before she got to her feet, under the terms of an existing agreement.

That was after reports had begun to emerge that Mr Corbyn was planning to table the motion if there was no date in her speech.

The source insisted the statement was not sent late to Labour, adding: “It was a copy of the statement drafted well in advance of that briefing (on the confidence motion) from the Leader of the Opposition’s office becoming public, and the statement that was sent to him reflected an already-drafted and already-agreed decision.”

Asked about Labour claims that its manoeuvre forced the Government to give a date, the source added: “They are, sadly, incorrect.”

Instead of pushing for a motion, Mr Corbyn instead criticised the delay between January’s meaningful vote and the date it had been due to be held in December, before the Government pulled in the face of massive opposition.

He told MPs: “It is disgraceful that a month has been wasted since we were due to vote on 11 December, there can be no further attempts to dodge accountability to Parliament.”

The Parliamentary merry-go-round was criticised as “woeful” by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has been critical of both the Government’s approach to Brexit and Labour’s role in opposition to it.

She said on Twitter: “This shambles of a government is driving the UK towards disaster, and the official opposition seems content to just stand back and watch.

“Week of Jan 14 was always likely to be the government’s chosen timescale – by acceding to it, Labour is allowing them to waste another month.

“And when there are only three months left to avert disaster, that’s really not excellent tactics.”

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