THE Westminster leader of the SNP yesterday revealed plans to halt Brexit in its tracks.
Ian Blackford said the party’s MPs would put forward an amendment to the Brexit deal before a crucial House of Commons vote.
He said the move to pause Article 50 would give time to allow negotiation for the “least-worst option” of the UK staying in the single market and customs union.
The vote by MPs on the Brexit deal is anticipated to take place before Christmas – possibly in early December, before the next European council summit on December 13.
However Theresa May is continuing her battle to win support after telling MPs it is her deal, no deal or no Brexit.
Brexiteers plotting to remove her insist they are close to winning enough support for a vote of no- confidence among Tory MPs but observers do not believe they have the numbers to win it.
Mr Blackford told the Sunday Post: “I haven’t seen what the government are bringing forward, but I want to put down an amendment that will give the opportunity to extend Article 50 to pause the process.
“The reason for that is to allow time for the Commons to vote on the proposition of staying in the single market and customs union and obviously giving that determination to the government that they will have to take back to Brussels.”
Blackford said the aim would be to effectively suspend the plan to leave the EU on March 29 next year.
He said: “The one thing I have argued, and the Scottish Government has argued, is that the least-worst option is staying in the single market and the customs union.
“I have long held to the view you can secure a majority for that in the House of Commons.
“In terms of what we want to do that is for us that is the single most important issue.”
He added: “There is neither willingness to support the Prime Minister’s plan, nor any support in a material sense for a no deal.
“So we are trying to come up with a position the Commons can support. It is really about making sure there is time for the Government and the EU to agree that is how we will move ahead.”
Last month the UK Government released a memorandum which said the Brexit deal vote should not be automatically subject to amendments. It hoped to have the deal approved and only then let MPs debate amendments.
Blackford along with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts wrote a letter to May last week calling for guarantees of a “meaningful vote” on the terms of Brexit.
The letter raised concerns about the final vote being constrained in an “attempt to muzzle Parliament”.
Blackford said conversations with ministers had now indicated the Prime Minister had accepted the need for amendments.
He said: “It looks like we are going to have amendments which we can put down to the meaningful vote.”
On Friday the influential Commons Procedure Committee also recommended MPs should be able to vote on proposed amendments to the government’s motion, before the final decision on approving the exit deal.
Dr Hannah White, deputy director of think tank the Institute for Government, said: “The argument is that in the House of Commons one of the important principles is the views of minorities should be heard.
“The point of principle here was that even if there wasn’t a majority for any of these amendments, there ought to be the opportunity for those views to be expressed.”
White said amendments – which are selected by Speaker John Bercow – could result in the changes to the motion brought forward by the Government.
However she added: “The question is whether there will be a majority for any particular amendment. I don’t think that is necessarily clear.”
The Prime Minister has been through a tumultuous week that saw the departure of ministers including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey. A high-profile insurrection on the back benches to remove her from office was also launched, with arch Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg calling for a vote of no confidence and submitting a letter to the chair of the 1922 Committee.
The committee has the power to trigger a no confidence vote in the party leader once it receives such letters from 15% of MPs – a total of 48.
But yesterday it was understood the coup attempt was still 11 letters short, despite predictions enough letters would have been received by Friday.
Even if such a vote is triggered, the Prime Minister could survive and would then be granted immunity for a year from any fresh attempt to end her leadership.
However in a further sign of the deepening Conservative rift, a minister yesterday warned Remain-voting Tory MPs could throw their weight behind stopping Brexit entirely if “purists” scupper the deal.
Middle East Minister Alistair Burt responded bluntly to a tweet by Brexiteer Steve Baker which criticised the Prime Minister’s deal.
He wrote: “Be very clear. If an agreed deal on leaving between the Govt and the EU is voted down by purist Brexiteers, do not be surprised if consensus on accepting the result of the Referendum by Remain voting MPs breaks down.”
Stephen Barclay has been appointed Brexit Secretary – the third this year – but the role has been downgraded as the Prime Minister will in future take sole control of negotiations on EU withdrawal.
May has bolstered her Cabinet by bringing back former home secretary Amber Rudd, who resigned in April over the Windrush scandal.
Rudd pleaded with Tory rebels to back the Prime Minister saying: “This is not time for changing our leader.”