UK axes post-Brexit registration fee
But Prime Minister Theresa May reaffirmed that she rejected a people’s vote and a delay to Brexit as she tries to run the clock down until the March 29 deadline and force MPs to back her unpopular deal.
She has held a week of talks with other parties, although many observers would say these were two years too late. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn likened the Brexit process to “Groundhog Day”.
On scrapping the registration fee, May said: “I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on March 30, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. Anyone who has applied during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed.”
May said she had met other parties “in a constructive spirit, without preconditions”. The enfeebled leader criticised Corbyn for refusing to enter talks. He demanded that she must first rule out a no-deal Brexit.
But few MPs appeared impressed by May’s attempts at reconciliation.
Sarah Wollaston MP tweeted: “It’s like last week’s vote never happened. Plan B is Plan A.”
The prime minister said she would return to Brussels to try to renegotiate the much-maligned Northern Ireland backstop, which Brexiters want removing from the agreement. May’s refusal to move on ruling out a no-deal Brexit and allowing another referendum means there is little room for negotiation.
May said she believed “we can make progress on the substance of the deal” although her supposed Plan B amounted to a restatement of her Plan A with some reassurance that the Northern Ireland issue would, at some point, be addressed.
“We will work to identify how we can ensure that our commitment to no hard border in Northern Ireland and Ireland can be delivered in a way that commands the support of this house and the
European Union,” May told MPs, although, after more than two years, no one in government has presented a plan for the British border in Ireland.
Labour MP Chris Leslie urged May to consider a fresh referendum to end the crisis.
“Why does she keep leaving out the option of a people’s vote?” Leslie asked the humiliated prime minister.
“The decision was made in 2016 by the British people that we should leave the European Union, and that’s what we’re doing,” replied May, reminding observers why she has been nicknamed the Maybot.
“I’m sorry but this just isn’t good enough,” said pro-remain MP Anna Soubry of Conservative Party. “Last week it was a historic defeat. This house has spoken. It has rejected overwhelmingly the prime minister’s deal, and here we are with another week of can-kicking, and the truth is … nothing’s changed.”
It remains to be seen if a people’s vote can win a parliamentary majority.