Theresa May summons Labour MPs to Brexit briefing in bid to sell deal
Labour MPs have been summoned to a Brexit briefing with Theresa May’s top team as she battles to win Commons support for her EU deal.
Opposition troops will be given a briefing from Mrs May’s de facto deputy David Lidington and her chief of staff Gavin Barwell at 8pm tonight.
Mrs May is facing wide-ranging opposition to her Brexit deal, with her own eurosceptic backbenchers and the DUP - who she relies on for a Commons majority - vowing to vote against it.
The Prime Minister is hoping that she can convince a number of Labour MPs to defy Jeremy Corbyn and side with her deal.
But the planned briefing has already been given a frosty reception by some of those on the opposition benches - and triggered a furious reaction from top Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Ilford’s Wes Streeting told PoliticsHome it was “not clear what Number 10 are hoping to achieve” with the behind-closed-doors session.
“We told the PM we wouldn’t support Chequers but she went off to negotiate for it anyway,” he said. “She’s now come back with something worse, so she shouldn’t be surprised to know that we will be voting against it.
“Boris Johnson resigned during the last Number 10 Brexit briefing for Labour MPs. It’s hard to see this briefing being any more successful and will probably be less entertaining.”
Derby North's Chris Williamson, a key ally of the Labour leader, meanwhile branded it "a pointless exercise bordering on a stunt" and confirmed he would not be attending.
He told this site: "The deal isn't fit for purpose and no amount of spin by Gavin Barwell is going to change that fact.
"It's why we need a general election and to that end I am speaking at a meeting of Labour Party members in North London this evening to talk about preparations for that, whether it comes sooner or later, in order to elect a Labour government so that we can democratise the economy."
The move meanwhile provoked a fresh backlash from Conservative eurosceptics, who have long warned Mrs May against trying to pass a deal with Labour support.
European Research Group chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg told PoliticsHome: "It smacks of desperation."
The gathering comes as Number 10 kicks off a PR blitz designed to swing MPs behind Mrs May’s agreement ahead of the crunch Commons vote - which could come on December 12.
The PM is expected to start touring the country this week and will tell the House of Commons later that they should back her deal or risk “division and more uncertainty”.
She will tell MPs: "Our duty as a Parliament over these coming weeks is to examine this deal in detail, to debate it respectfully, to listen to our constituents and decide what is in our national interest.
"There is a choice which MPs will have to make. We can back this deal, deliver on the vote of the referendum and move on to building a brighter future of opportunity and prosperity for all our people.
"Or this House can choose to reject this deal and go back to square one … It would open the door to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail."
Labour MP Lisa Nandy dealt the Prime Minister a fresh blow this weekend as she hit out at the lack of contact from Downing Street and said it was "inconceivable" she could now vote for the agreement.
The Wigan MP had previously urged her colleagues to keep an "open mind".
Number 10 has been approached for comment on the purpose of tonight’s briefing.