Commons vote on May’s Brexit deal will be challenging, admits Barclay

Theresa May faces a “challenging vote” when her Brexit deal is put before MPs, the new Brexit secretary has admitted, as the EU’s top official warned that the only alternative was leaving without one at all.

But Stephen Barclay said the Prime Minister has managed to get the best agreement possible for the United Kingdom after her two-year-long negotiation with Brussels.

Mrs May will face the Commons after EU leaders endorsed the deal at a summit on Sunday, and made it clear it was not up for renegotiation.

She will tell MPs “with absolute certainty” that “there is not a better deal available”, and challenge them to back her plan or risk crashing out without an agreement.

The PM will warn her Cabinet at a meeting on Monday morning that rejecting her deal will “open the door to more division and uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail”.

But after scores of MPs have declared their intention to vote it down, her Brexit Secretary was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme how the Government will get it through Parliament.

Mr Barclay, who only took over the role from Dominic Raab earlier this month, said: “Well, it’s going to be a challenging vote.

But it’s now the job of all of us in Cabinet to make the case to our colleagues, make the case to the country.

“The Prime Minister, after two years working day and night in the national interest, has secured a deal that respects the referendum result, and does so in a way that also protects jobs, that also gives security to EU citizens.”

He said people needed to know what the choice now facing Britain was, adding: “The choice is between a deal, or the uncertainty that would flow from what the Chancellor said last week; the choppy waters that we will move in to if this deal does not go through.”

Speaking on the same programme, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said there will be no more negotiation on the Brexit agreement, insisting: “This is the best deal for Britain.”<

He reiterated his comments from the weekend, saying: “And this is the only deal possible, so if the House (of Commons) says no, we would have no deal.”

He added: “It’s not the intention of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, nor of the Parliament to go for a second referendum. This is the deal.”

Ahead of the vote in Parliament, Mrs May has already started a campaign of selling her deal directly to the public, in the hope their support can win round MPs opposed to the plan before the Commons vote, widely expected in the week beginning December 10.

Part of that plan could include a televised debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Daily Telegraph reported.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Jeremy would relish a head-to-head debate with Theresa May about her botched Brexit deal and the future of the country.”

In her Commons statement, the Prime Minister will say: “Our duty as a Parliament over these coming weeks is to examine this deal in detail, to debate it respectfully, to listen to our constituents and decide what is in our national interest.

“There is a choice which MPs will have to make. We can back this deal, deliver on the vote of the referendum and move on to building a brighter future of opportunity and prosperity for all our people.

“Or this House can choose to reject this deal and go back to square one … It would open the door to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail.”

She will say that “the national interest is clear” and “the British people want us to get on with a deal that honours the referendum”.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson branded the Prime Minister’s deal a “disaster” and a “humiliation” for the UK.

In his regular Daily Telegraph column, he said: “The other EU countries have signed the deal immediately, because they know that they have us exactly where they want us.

“We are a satellite state – a memento mori fixed on the walls of Brussels as a ghastly gaping warning to all who try to escape.”

More than 80 Tories have rejected the deal, with opposition parties – and Mrs May’s allies in the DUP – also set to oppose it.

Also writing in the Telegraph, deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds demanded the Government go back to the negotiating table “rather than waste any more time putting forward false choices”.

“We are heading under this deal for Brexit in name only or the break-up of the United Kingdom,” he warned.

“The tragedy is that it is all so utterly unnecessary.”