May to make last-ditch attempt to avert defeat for Brexit deal

Senior health service officials concerned about access to some 45 key drugs

Speaking on BBC's The Andrew Marr Show Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party will do everything they can "to prevent a no-deal Brexit". Video: BBC/ The Andrew Marr Show


British prime minister Theresa May will make a last-ditch effort to avert defeat for her Brexit deal with a warning to hardline Brexiteers in her party that they risk blocking the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Some Conservative Brexiteers welcome the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU in the event of a no-deal scenario, but Mrs May will tell them it is more likely that parliament would insist on a second referendum.

She will point to last week’s House of Commons rebellions that saw anti-Brexit Conservative MPs vote with the opposition.

“As we have seen over the last few weeks, there are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so,” she is expected to say during a visit to a factory in Stoke-on-Trent, England.

Here, senior health service officials are concerned about access to some 45 key drugs, as well as foodstuffs for people with specialised diets and breast milk for premature infants. The only breast milk bank supplying neonatal units in Northern Ireland and the Republic is in the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

Sources said the HSE was particularly worried that what are known as “just-in-time” medicines, which are brought into Ireland for specific cases, could be held up by any new border arrangements.

The Cabinet will be given specific details by the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Minister for Transport Shane Ross on Tuesday on potential difficulties in their areas, as well as plans for tackling problems that may arise.

Fresh assurances

Meanwhile, the EU is expected to publish fresh assurances on the Northern Ireland backstop on Monday evening, restating its intention that the backstop should be temporary and promising to make every effort to agree a trade deal to replace it as soon as possible.

Dozens of Conservative backbenchers and the DUP’s 10 MPs have promised to vote against Mrs May’s deal, along with almost every opposition MP.

MPs voted last week for motions opposing a no-deal Brexit and to allow parliament to propose alternative options if it rejects the government’s.

Mrs May is expected to say: “I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy. Imagine if an anti-devolution House of Commons had said to the people of Scotland or Wales that despite voting in favour of a devolved legislature, parliament knew better and would over-rule them. Or else force them to vote again.

“What if we found ourselves in a situation where parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a remain vote? People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm. We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum.”

If MPs reject the prime minister’s deal on Tuesday night, she must return to the Commons by next Monday to outline how she intends to proceed with Brexit. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn signalled on Sunday that he will table a motion of no confidence in the government soon after a defeat, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

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