WATCH Theresa May tells MPs: Britain can turn a corner if you back my Brexit deal
Theresa May has said Britain can "turn a corner" and move on from the "divisive" Brexit referendum if MPs get behind her EU deal this year.
The Prime Minister ushered in 2019 with a plea for parliamentarians to help Britain "put our differences aside and move forward together".
"New Year is a time to look ahead and in 2019 the UK will start a new chapter," she said in her New Year message.
"The Brexit deal I have negotiated delivers on the vote of the British people and in the next few weeks MPs will have an important decision to make. If Parliament backs a deal, Britain can turn a corner."
Mrs May was forced to pull a scheduled Commons vote on her agreement before Christmas, and has since been battling to persuade EU leaders to provide fresh assurances over the Northern Ireland backstop element of the deal.
Ahead of the rescheduled vote, due in the week of January 14, the Prime Minister said: "The referendum in 2016 was divisive but we all want the best for our country and 2019 can be the year we put our differences aside and move forward together, into a strong new relationship with our European neighbours and out into the world as a globally trading nation."
The Prime Minister has been pressing Brussels for guarantees that the UK will be able to leave the backstop, which will keep the UK in a customs union with the EU if no other way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland can be found by the end of 2020.
Tory Brexiteers and the DUP - who Mrs May relies on for her slim parliamentary majority - fear the backstop, if triggered, could rule out independent trade deals and see Britain indefinitely bound to EU rules.
But Mrs May's spokesperson acknowledged that talks over Christmas had yet to persuade European leaders to give ground.
"There’s still more work to do," they said.
"The PM is absolutely focused on doing that in the lead-up to the vote itself. The UK team, at official level, are in contact with their counterparts in the EU technical level.
"Her focus is on getting the assurances MPs want ahead of that vote taking place.”
BREXIT 'NOT THE ONLY ISSUE'
Mrs May also used her New Year address to try and shift focus beyond Brexit to other areas of domestic policy, in a fresh hint that the PM - who has promised to step down before the next election - wants to be remembered for more than just the drive to leave the EU.
She said: "Important though Brexit is, it is not the only issue that counts. When each of us looks back on 2019, it will be the personal milestones that stand out.
"These are the things that matter most and by agreeing a good Brexit deal, we can focus our energy on those things – strengthening our economy and opening up new markets for our businesses to create new jobs and opportunities across the UK; building the housing our country needs so everyone can have a home of their own and transforming technical education so everyone gains the skills they need to get on.
"Our long term plan for the NHS will put a record investment into our most precious public service so it is there for us when we need it.
"We will introduce a new skills based immigration system to replace freedom of movement, and by protecting and enhancing our natural environment, we will make Britain a healthier place."
But Jeremy Corbyn used his own message to accuse the Conservatives of making "complete mess of Brexit".
The Labour leader said: "Eight years of damaging Tory failure has left us with a divided country where millions are struggling to make ends meet, where so many can't afford a home to call their own, where older people are deprived of the dignity they deserve and far too many are working in low paid and insecure jobs."