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Tory MPs lead widespread criticism of Theresa May's 'new deal' on Brexit

4 min read

Theresa May's hopes of finally winning backing for her Brexit deal have been dealt a savage blow as Tory MPs lined up to criticise it.

The Prime Minister outlined plans aimed at trying to win support from both Labour MPs and Tory eurosceptics for the "new deal" contained in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

In a major concession, Mrs May said it will include a pledge to give the Commons a vote on whether to hold a second EU referendum.

It also contained guarantees to match EU standards on workers' rights and the environment, as well as a vow to put the Government under a legal obligation to find "alternative arrangements" to the controversial Irish backstop before the end of 2020.

And on trade links with the EU - the main bone of contention between Labour and the Government - the PM said Parliament would get to decide on the best way to break the impasse.

Mrs May said those who refused to back the deal would be “voting to stop Brexit”.

But within minutes of Mrs May setting out her plans in a speech in central London, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith announced that he would not be backing it.

He said: "I can’t see that we’ve taken back control over anything.  he backstop is still there, it’s a customs union in all but name and it puts Brussels firmly in control of our destiny.  

“There’s nothing new or bold about this bad buffet of non Brexit options. At a time when people are deserting the main parties this is the PM’s response, to do all she can to defy the result of the referendum.

"Today the Government has moved from take back control to give back control.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the hardline Brexiteer European Research Group, said the compromise was "unquestionably worse" than that offered at the third so-called meaningful vote in March.

"The PM, having negotiated with herself, has given in to her left-wing Brussels self rather than her Conservative self," he said.

ERG vice-chairman Steve Baker said he would vote against the “muddled implementation of a failed deal".

“The Prime Minister made a speech riddled with inconsistencies as she pledged to muddle the legislation implementing this failed deal by adding more opportunities for uncertainty," he said.

“Our party stands on the brink. I know the Prime Minister will not want to lead us over it. It’s time we were led away from the precipice and towards the only path of safety for this country.”


Meanwhile Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said the proposals were "even more of a dog’s breakfast than the last deal" as he ruled out backing the agreement at the fourth time of asking.

“The backstop customs union is still at the heart of the deal, preventing us from agreeing trade deals with the fasting growing economies in the world," he said.

“I supported the Prime Minister in March as I thought it was our last chance to leave the EU. That’s no longer the case and I’m afraid that this proposal will reinforce the public’s view that the establishment is hellbent on thwarting the referendum result.”

His colleague, Anne-Marie Trevelyan said there was "nothing new or bold about this deal" and that the people of Northern Ireland could still be "sold out" by the backstop.

She added: "Now the government is trying to ram its botched deal through on Labour votes by keeping us in the Customs Union, allowing Brussels to dictate our future trade policy and breaching our Conservative manifesto.

“I’ll read the deal cover to cover before deciding but I’m very unlikely to vote for this. I look forward to a bright future where we actually deliver the Brexit 17.4 million people voted for."

Nigel Dodds, Westminster leader of the DUP, who Mrs May relies on to prop up her minority government, also dropped a strong hint that his party would oppose the WAB when it is voted on at second reading next month.

He said: "We will examine the legislation closely when the bill is finally published but the fundamental flaws of the draft Withdrawal Agreement treaty itself remain unchanged.

"Many of the proposals on the backstop serve as an attempt through domestic law to mitigate a bad deal whereas the focus should be on getting a better deal."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was equally sceptical, describing Mrs May's latest proposal as "largely a rehash of the Government's position in the cross-party talks that failed to reach a compromise last week".

He said: "On key elements - customs, market alignment and environmental protections - what the Prime Minister calls her new Brexit deal is effectively a repackaging of the same old bad deal, rejected three times by Parliament.

"We will of course look seriously at the details of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill when it is published. But we won't back a repackaged version of the same old deal - and it’s clear that this weak and disintegrating government is unable deliver on its own commitments."

The SNP, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru also confirmed that they will vote against the legislation, virtually guaranteeing that it will not pass.

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