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MPs to vote on key Brexit legislation in June – Downing Street

By Alan McGuinness, political reporter

The government will bring forward a key piece of Brexit legislation at the start of next month, Downing Street has said.

Number 10 said MPs will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which enshrines the prime minister's Brexit plan into UK law, in the week beginning 3 June.

The announcement came following what Downing Street said were "useful and constructive" talks between Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

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It places an effective deadline on those cross-party discussions, which Mrs May sought in the wake of her Brexit deal being defeated three times by MPs.

Mrs May reached out to Mr Corbyn in a bid to find a compromise deal that could break the deadlock, but there has been no breakthrough so far.

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"This evening the prime minister met the leader of the opposition in the House of Commons to make clear our determination to bring the talks to a conclusion and deliver on the referendum result to leave the EU," a Downing Street spokesman said.

"We will therefore be bringing forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week beginning the 3rd June.

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"It is imperative we do so then if the UK is to leave the EU before the summer parliamentary recess."

A Labour Party spokeswoman said Mr Corbyn voiced his "concerns about the prime minister's ability to deliver on any compromise agreement".

She continued: "In particular, he raised doubts over the credibility of government commitments, following statements by Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers seeking to replace the prime minister.

"Jeremy Corbyn made clear the need for further movement from the government, including on entrenchment of any commitments.

"The prime minister's team agreed to bring back documentation and further proposals tomorrow."

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It was reported last month that Mrs May was planning to put the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to a vote.

One minister told Sky News political editor Beth Rigby at the time that it was important for the prime minister to at least appear to be pressing on with Brexit, even if there was no realistic prospect of progress.

Those familiar with No 10's thinking told Sky News that the government would load the Withdrawal Agreement Bill with trinkets for different parliamentary factions in order to have at least a glimmer of hope that it might pass.

Mrs May has said she will stand down once the first phase of Brexit is sorted out, so getting the legislation through parliament by the summer break could pave the way for her Downing Street exit.

But a positive outcome for the government is far from certain.

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Indeed, it is understood that Mr Corbyn has rejected any suggestion that Labour would support the bill without an agreement emerging from the cross-party talks.

And the DUP parliamentary leader Nigel Dodds said: "If the Prime Minister brings the Withdrawal bill to the Commons for a vote the question will be 'what has changed?'

"Unless she can demonstrate something new that addresses the problem of the backstop then it is highly likely her deal will go down to defeat once again."

Mrs May gathered her top team in Downing Street earlier, with ministers agreeing to continue the discussions with Labour.

Her spokesman said a high-stakes meeting of the cabinet saw them debate compromises they could hand to the opposition.

The start of June promises to be a busy time in Westminster.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill will go before the Commons in the same week that US President Donald Trump makes a state visit to the UK.

Also, voters in Peterborough will go to the polls in the first by-election sparked by a recall petition.

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