Theresa May has told MPs it is “high time” they make a final decision on Brexit.
Speaking inside Number 10 Downing Street in an address direct to the nation, the prime minister said she “passionately hopes” they will back her deal as she told a public largely sick of the issue: “I am on your side.”
May again insisted MPs must decide between her highly disputed Brexit withdrawal deal, quitting the EU with no deal with potentially damaging economic consequences, or not leaving at all.
Her evening statement came on yet another frantic day in British politics after May earlier wrote to EU leaders requesting a three-month delay to quitting the bloc until June 30.
Ramping up the drama, Brussels chief Donald Tusk responded that the remaining 27 nations would only agree a short delay to Brexit if MPs voted for May’s troubled deal.
But the PM repeated her insistence she was “not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30”, signalling she could quit if Brexit was delayed beyond June.
In a televised statement, May said that it was “a matter of great personal regret for me” that Brexit will not go ahead on March 29.
She blamed MPs for failing to agree a means to implement the result of the 2016 referendum and said she believes voters just want this stage of the Brexit process to be over, in comments that will infuriate politicians who are trying to build consensus for an alternative to her deal.
May said: “Of this, I am absolutely sure: You the public have had enough. You are tired of the infighting, you’re tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows, tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit when you have real concerns about our children’s schools, our National Health Service, knife crime.
“You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side. It is now time for MPs to decide.”
Her withdrawal agreement, thrashed out with the EU, has already been voted down by MPs twice and in historic numbers.
Doubts remain whether Speaker John Bercow would even allow a third meaningful vote - dubbed MV3 - if MPs are asked to vote on the same motion.
Tusk’s ultimatum opens up the prospect of the UK quitting the union on March 29, as scheduled, without an agreement - a so-called no-deal Brexit that critics fear will seriously damage the UK economy.
With the crisis engulfing Westminster, speculation is also mounting over May’s future as prime minister, with the mood among the Tory party descending yet further after she asked the EU for a delay.