British MPs to vote on Brexit deal on December 11th

Dozens of Conservative backbenchers say they were unable to support May’s deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May tells UK parliament that there's no deal without a backstop during a pitch for her deal on Monday November 26th. Video: Parliament TV

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British prime minister Theresa May will stage the make-or-break vote on her final Brexit deal on Tuesday, December 11th after a marathon Commons debate in which the prime minister hopes to turn around the 89 Tory MPs who say they cannot support it.

The crucial vote will come at the end of a five-day Commons debate, according to a letter sent out by the Julian Smith, the chief whip, to Conservative MPs that was leaked on Monday afternoon.

Dozens of Conservative backbenchers have publicly declared they were unable to support May’s deal, voicing complaints about the customs backstop that would tie the UK to some EU rules if a long-term free trade deal could not be signed.

Opposition

Downing Street said it was well aware of the scale of the opposition. “The number of MPs that there are is well understood,” a government spokesman said, while insisting that Mrs May was confident of winning the vote.

Confirmation of the timetable came as the prime minister discussed with her cabinet at a one-hour political session how she was going to sell her Brexit deal to MPs and the country at large.

The spokesman added: “Cabinet talked about the strategy we are going to deploy to win the meaningful vote”.

However, it is now not thought likely that Mrs May will challenge Jeremy Corbyn to a television debate on the Brexit deal. The idea is one of a number of ideas that had been considered by the government but insiders said: “There are are number of ideas that haven’t got off the ground.”

‘Wrong language’

Mrs May said she used the wrong language when she told business leaders her post-Brexit immigration plans would stop EU workers being able to “jump the queue”.

The prime minister was heavily criticised for the remarks, made in a keynote speech to the CBI’s conference in London last week, where she outlined plans to curb immigration after Brexit.

Mrs May told MPs she should “not have used that language” when she was asked about the speech by the SNP’s Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire).

“I should not have used that language in that speech. The point I was making was a simple one. “Right from the very beginning I said that citizens’ rights was a key issue that I wanted to see addressed in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Earlier, Mrs May’s new Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, acknowledged it will be tough to get the deal through a vote in parliament.

But he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Ms May has got the best agreement possible for the United Kingdom after her negotiations with Brussels.

Asked about how the UK government will get the deal secured by Ms May at yesterday’s summit approved by the House of Commons, Mr Barclay 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, to 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.”

No deal

Conservative MP Owen Paterson told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme that leaving with no deal would be better for the UK than the deal currently on offer.

“There is no chance I will vote for it, I don’t see any chance of it getting through commons,” he said.

“There are 90 Conservative MPs who won’t vote for it. There’s a large number of Labour MPs who won’t vote for it, the DUP won’t vote for it.”

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said if Ms May’s Brexit deal fails to make it through Parliament she could be sent back to Brussels to negotiate better terms.

Sir Keir Starmer said there is a majority of MPs who would not back a “no deal” scenario and would pressure Ms May to prevent that from happening.

Asked if parliament can stop the clock running out on getting an agreement and preventing such an outcome, he admitted any motion by MPs to try and do so might not be binding.

He said: “If you had a vast majority saying we don’t authorise the Government to leave with no deal, it would be very difficult for the Government politically to do so.

“I accept that may not be legally binding, there would then have to be legislation before March for any Government preparing for no deal and there would be plenty of opportunities to put amendments down to that to require the Government to do things.”

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said anyone hoping for fresh negotiations would be disappointed within “seconds” if parliament rejects the deal, while Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz added: “This is a take-it-or-leave-it situation.”–Additional reporting: PA/Bloomberg/Guardian

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