Tuesday 22 January 2019

Theresa May: UK will be in unchartered waters if Brexit deal is rejected by MPs

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Photo: PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Photo: PA Wire
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd who has voiced support for a Norway-style model as an alternative to the Prime Minister's Brexit deal if the Withdrawal Agreement is thrown out by MPs. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Karen Bradley, who has penned an open letter seeking to assure citizens that the draft Brexit deal is not a threat to rights or the Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Saturday December 8, 2018. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland published the letter on Saturday, stating that Theresa May's deal protects the Belfast agreement, and that any backstop arrangement would be temporary. See PA story POLITICS Brexit Bradley. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Pro-European protestors outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, as a vote is held against Theresa May's proposed Brexit deal with MSPs calling instead for a 'better alternative' to the PM's plans to be taken forward. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Photo: PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Theresa May has warned Tory MPs they risk handing Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Number 10 unless they back her Brexit deal.

With a looming Commons vote, the British Prime Minister is fighting to save both her Brexit plan and her premiership in the face of a mounting Tory revolt.

Downing Street insisted that the vote would still go ahead on Tuesday amid speculation she might be forced to delay the showdown.

Mrs May warned Tory would-be rebels the country would be in "uncharted waters" if the deal is rejected.

"It would mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit or leaving the European Union with no deal," she told the Mail on Sunday.

"We have a leader of the Opposition who thinks of nothing but attempting to bring about a general election, no matter what the cost to the country.

"As someone who cares passionately about my country and my party, I believe Jeremy Corbyn getting his hands on power is a risk we cannot afford to take."

Reports suggested Mrs May could make an emergency trip to Brussels ahead of a planned summit on Thursday in an effort to secure further concessions in an effort to win over critics of her plan.

Pro-European protestors outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, as a vote is held against Theresa May's proposed Brexit deal with MSPs calling instead for a 'better alternative' to the PM's plans to be taken forward. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Pro-European protestors outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, as a vote is held against Theresa May's proposed Brexit deal with MSPs calling instead for a 'better alternative' to the PM's plans to be taken forward. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The UK Prime Minister's comments came as her government was hit by another resignation over the Brexit plan.

Will Quince, a ministerial aide to UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, hit out at the backstop plan to avoid a hard border with Ireland, saying it could result in the UK being "tied to the negotiating table for years, until we agree to anything in desperation" to get out of the situation.

The same newspaper reported that another parliamentary private secretary was on the verge of quitting, and said Cabinet Brexiteer Penny Mordaunt was considering whether to back the deal or resign.

But Mrs May insisted her deal was the best way for Brexiteers to get the UK out of the European Union.

With the vote expected to result in a government defeat, some Cabinet ministers have urged her to delay while others have already begun promoting the idea of alternatives.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd suggested a Norway-plus model, remaining in both the single market and customs union, as a "plausible" option that could get through the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Photo: PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Photo: PA Wire

But Brexiteers would loathe an arrangement that keeps the UK aligned to EU rules without a seat at the table in Brussels and does little, if anything, to tackle free movement.

A rejection for Mrs May's deal could also boost the cause of campaigners calling for a second referendum.

The Prime Minister insisted she still believed she was the best leader for the Tory party and spoke of her hope that the Brexit deal would be secured by Christmas.

But her position appears precarious, with potential rivals on manoeuvres in case she is ousted or quits.

Brexiteers Mr Johnson, David Davis and Priti Patel all addressed grassroots Conservative activists on Saturday at the National Conservative Convention, fuelling speculation about their ambitions.

Writing in the Sun on Sunday, Mr Johnson called for MPs to vote down Mrs May's deal and said preparations for no deal should be ramped up, accusing the Prime Minister of "failure and lack of resolve".

The former foreign secretary also proposed using the £39 billion so-called divorce payment as leverage to get the EU back to the negotiating table.

Mr Johnson suggested the transition period could be re-purposed for talks to find a solution to the backstop and strike a trade deal, with at least half of the divorce payment withheld until the deal was done.

Fellow leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested Mr Johnson and Ms Rudd, a Remain supporter, could work side-by-side in a unity leadership team.

In an article for the Mail on Sunday, Mr Mogg said: "If, for example, leading figures from either side were prepared to come together, such as Boris Johnson and Amber Rudd, they could potentially deliver the Brexit people voted for with a global, outward-looking UK that could succeed."

Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt have also been touted as a potential joint ticket.

Former Brexit secretary Mr Davis warned the Tory leadership not to attempt to "bully" MPs into supporting a "failed strategy".

His successor, Dominic Raab, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that he will vote against Mrs May's agreement and called for the Government to make a final attempt to renegotiate the deal.

He said the risks of crashing out of the EU are "dwarfed by the long-term damage that accepting this deal would inflict on our economy, and on the very foundations of our democracy".

Also writing for the Telegraph, current Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the government is "preparing for all scenarios".

"We are serious about no deal," he said, but warned: "The choice is this deal, no deal, or no Brexit at all - with this deal by far the best outcome."

Ahead of the Commons showdown, controversial activist Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, will lead a pro-Brexit march in London on Sunday - with a rival counter-demonstration set to oppose it.

Elsewhere in the capital, a rally will be held by the pro-EU Best for Britain and the second referendum campaign the People's Vote, featuring politicians including Lord Heseltine and celebrities such as actors Charles Dance and Jason Isaacs.

Lord Heseltine will warn politicians that Britain's youth will "never forgive us" unless they are given the chance to reverse Brexit.

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