May makes last ditch bit do win Brexit deal vote today

Prime minuster Theresa May has issued a last-ditch plea for MPs to back her Brexit deal.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 15 January, 2019, 05:00
Prime Minister Theresa May listens as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responds to her latest statement issued on Brexit.

The xall came after Brussels chiefs issued a letter offering assurances that they do not want the controversial “backstop” to be permanent.

The Prime Minister said the letter from European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker made clear that the backstop was “not a threat or a trap”.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox issued advice that EU assurances on the backstop “would have legal force in international law”, and said the current deal “now represents the only politically practicable and available means of securing our exit from the EU”.

But Mrs May’s hopes that the letter would win over enough MPs to rescue her Withdrawal Agreement looked set to be dashed.

The Democratic Unionist Party – which props up her minority administration– dismissed it as “meaningless”.

“Rather than reassure us, the Tusk and Juncker letter bolsters our concerns,” said DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who called on the PM to demand changes to the Agreement itself.

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Tory MP Gareth Johnson yesterday quit as an assistant whip to oppose Mrs May’s plan, saying it was clear there was “no significant change” to the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the deal was “not perfect” but urged MPs who had come out against it to give it a “second look”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said she had failed to secure the assurances she had promised and the Government was in “disarray”.

Earlier, Mrs May warned MPs would be behaving with the “height of recklessness” if they rejected her Withdrawal Agreement in today’s historic vote, when no alternative deal was on offer which was negotiable and respected the 2016 referendum result.

The Prime Minister said the presidents’ letter provided “valuable new clarifications and assurances” to address the concerns of MPs who fear the backstop, which is designed to prevent a hard border in Ireland, could become a permanent arrangement which the UK could leave only with approval from the EU.

Jeremy Corbyn warned Mrs May has “completely and utterly failed” to ease MPs’ concerns about her Brexit deal.

The Labour leader added that MPs would “not be fooled” by last-ditch assurances over the Irish border and said letters from the EU and the Prime Minister were “nothing more than a repetition of exactly the same position that was pulled more than one month ago”.