Theresa May makes last-ditch plea for MPs to back her Brexit deal
Theresa May has made a last-ditch plea to MPs to get her Withdrawal Agreement over the line and deliver Brexit on May 22.
In a special sitting of the House of Commons on the day initially scheduled for the UK to leave the European Union, the Prime Minister told MPs: “This is the last opportunity to guarantee Brexit.”
Mrs May was buoyed by declarations from hardline Brexiteers including Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Iain Duncan Smith that they will vote with her in the crunch division
As MPs prepared to vote, Mrs May said: “If you want to deliver Brexit, this is the moment.
“If you are passionate about making sure the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, back this motion. If you care about our Union and want a deal that protects it, back the motion.
“If you want to honour the referendum, but want Parliament to shape our future relationship, back this motion.
“It’s the right thing for our country, it’s the right thing for our constituents.”
But victory still seemed likely to remain beyond her grasp, as the Democratic Unionist Party and a clutch of influential Leave-backing Tories made clear they will continue to oppose the agreement reached with the remaining 27 EU states in November.
DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said the Northern Irish party’s 10 MPs will vote against the agreement because it “betrays the wishes of the vast majority of people who voted to leave”.
Mr Wilson told MPs that passing the deal would make it “impossible to find a way of securing the kind of assurances required to make sure the United Kingdom is not broken up.”
And former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson said that to avoid “catastrophic damage” to their party, Tory MPs must “stand up for the 17.4 million people who voted Leave, firmly resolved to deliver Brexit in full on April 12”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged his own MPs to “act in the best interests of their constituents and vote down this unacceptable deal”.
In an apparent bid to woo wavering Labour MPs, Mrs May said the Government would have backed an amendment from the party’s Gareth Snell if it had been selected for debate by Speaker John Bercow.
She promised legislation to put into effect the provisions of the amendment, which would give Parliament the right to set the negotiating mandate for talks on future relations with the EU and require MPs’ authorisation for any deal.
In a special Friday sitting of the Commons, MPs were debating the legally binding treaty segment of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, but not the accompanying Political Declaration setting out plans for the future EU/UK relationship.
The PM’s decision to split the two parts of the package means it does not qualify as a third attempt to pass a “meaningful vote” on the Government’s Brexit deal.
Under the terms of an agreement with Brussels, a positive vote would qualify the UK for an automatic delay to May 22 of the formal date of Brexit.
Defeat would give the UK until April 12 to ask Brussels for a further extension to Brexit negotiations – which would require it to take part in May’s elections to the European Parliament – or leave the EU without a deal.
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas confirmed that the agreement on its own was “necessary and sufficient” to deliver an orderly Brexit.
But he told a Brussels press conference that the deal must also be ratified by Parliament, something which Brexit legislation makes clear can only happen after the Political Declaration has been approved by MPs.