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Top Tory MP mulls 'government of national unity' as Theresa May scrambles to change Brexit deal

3 min read

Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan today became the latest Conservative MP to suggest a government of "national unity" as Theresa May raced to make changes to her Brexit deal.

The Treasury Select Committee chair told MPs they could either “carry on re-running the same debates” or “see how we build a consensus and move forward as a parliament” after Mrs May shelved a crunch Commons vote on her agreement and kicked off face-to-face talks with EU leaders.

Ms Morgan - who backed Remain in the 2016 referendum - is the third Conservative to publicly float the idea after former minister Anna Soubry and Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Soames both backed the plan.

Speaking in an emergency debate on Mrs May’s decision to pull her Commons vote, the ex-education secretary said: “The time for talking is over. The time for action by members of this House to avoid a no-deal is here."

She added: "I don't know how we test the parliamentary opinion if we don't have a vote. Maybe we need to put together a special select committee of senior members of parliament to hammer out what we mean. Maybe it's time for some sort of government of national unity.

"Maybe it's time for a free vote in an eventual vote on the deal, avoiding usual party political constraints.

"What I do know is we've 108 days to go until this country leaves the European Union. If the Government cannot sort out this matter of great national importance, then parliament must step in, must stop posturing - and actually get down to work to hammer out a deal."


The intervention came as it was reported that German chancellor Angela Merkel had dashed hopes of major changes to Mrs May's EU deal in a face-to-face meeting with the Prime Minister.

The details emerged following a briefing by Ms Merkel for members of her CDU bloc in which she said there was "no way to change" the main elements of a plan agreed after more than a year of talks.

Mrs May has also met Dutch PM Mark Rutte today, after telling MPs she had "listened very carefully" to their concerns about the Northern Ireland backstop part of her deal.

She will travel to Dublin tomorrow for talks with Irish PM Leo Varadkar before heading to a European Council meeting on Thursday, Downing Street announced.

Mrs May’s official spokesperson said: "What you've seen from the Prime Minister is a real determination to get this done because she really wants to deliver on the verdict of the public and wants to be the Prime Minister who takes the UK out of the European Union."


But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Mrs May of "running away" and branded her handling of Brexit an "abject mess".

"Every Prime Minister loses votes and gets things wrong," he told MPs.

"But yesterday the Prime Minister demeaned her office by unilaterally taking her discredited deal off the table and running away rather than face the verdict of this House.

"There’s nothing wrong with standing by your principles but this deal is not one of principle and she’s not even prepared to stand by it."

Mrs May had been facing mounting anger over her Brexit deal from her own MPs.

Eurosceptics and the DUP - who Mrs May relies on for her Commons majority - fear that the Northern Ireland backstop could keep Britain indefinitely bound to EU rules and create divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

The proposal will kick in if the UK and Brussels cannot agree a long-term way to avoid fresh checks at the Northern Ireland border.

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