Theresa May tells Parliament to do its duty and support Brexit deal

Theresa May has issued a plea to MPs to back a Brexit deal, telling Parliament to “do its duty” ahead of another series of votes on the Government’s negotiating strategy.

The Prime Minister said she had found a “real determination” in Brussels to find a way through the deadlock to allow the UK to leave with a deal, and claimed engagement with the European Union had “already begun to bear fruit”.

Mrs May accepted for the first time on Tuesday that the UK may not leave the EU on March 29, offering MPs a chance to vote to delay Brexit if her deal is rejected again next month.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mrs May said Parliament’s “absolute focus should be on working to get a deal and leaving on March 29” – and reiterated her opposition to delaying Britain’s departure.

She said: “By committing Labour to holding a second referendum, despite promising to implement Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn has shown once again that he cannot be trusted to keep his promises. His cynical political games would take us back to square one.

“Instead, Parliament should do its duty so that our country can move forward.

“We want to leave the EU with a deal that gives us the best of both worlds: a close relationship with our nearest neighbours and the chance to make the most of our talents and resources by building new relationships with growing economies around the world.”

MPs will vote on the Prime Minister’s negotiating strategy for Brexit and a series of amendments on Wednesday evening, ahead of another “meaningful vote” on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement next month.

Mrs May was warned by a ministerial aide that she faces an “enormous defeat” in the Commons on Wednesday unless she gives in to demands to seek a treaty on citizens’ rights after Brexit.

More than 60 Conservatives are understood to have signed an amendment tabled by Alberto Costa calling for a separate agreement with the European Union to protect the rights of expats even if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Labour is also supporting the amendment and Mr Costa said it would be a “farce” if the Government did not back down.

He told the Press Association his amendment, which already has support from 130 MPs ranging from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to Tory arch-Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg, would give the Prime Minister a mandate to push for a change with her fellow EU leaders.

More than 60 Conservatives are understood to have signed an amendment tabled by Alberto Costa (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament)
More than 60 Conservatives are understood to have signed an amendment tabled by Alberto Costa (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament)

He said his own job as a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to Scottish Secretary David Mundell was on the line as a result of his actions.

Labour former minister Yvette Cooper will table an amendment seeking to pin the Prime Minister down to her commitment to give MPs a chance to vote to delay Brexit if her deal falls again.

It came after:

– A Government paper revealed that almost a third of the Government’s most critical no-deal Brexit preparation projects are not on track for completion in time for the scheduled date of EU withdrawal on March 29.

– Tory MP Matt Warman said he would vote against an extension to Article 50 if Mrs May’s deal, which he said he would support, was defeated again next month.

– Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said there was still “no enthusiasm” for backing the PM’s deal without changes among members of the influential European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptics.

– International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told BBC Two’s Newsnight that he believed there was a “very good chance” of the Government being able to win the meaningful vote in March.

Elsewhere, Mr Rees-Mogg told a Spectator event that delaying Brexit beyond the European elections could lead to a surge in right-wing extremism.

“If we try to stay and we stay beyond the European elections, there will only be one winner from that, and that would be Tommy Robinson,” he said in comments reported by The Telegraph.

“I think this country has been very fortunate in not having extremism – throughout our history we’ve avoided the very far left and the very far right and I think that has been good for us as a nation but I think that if you decide that 17.4 m people voting is insignificant and should be overridden by MPs, then you create the atmosphere for extremism.”

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