DUP and Tory rebels reject Theresa May's attempt at Brexit deal compromise

Posted On: 
7th December 2018

An attempt by Theresa May to win over opponents of her Brexit deal by giving MPs a say on whether the UK enters the Northern Ireland backstop has been rejected by her critics.

Theresa May is currently on course for a heavy defeat on her Brexit deal.
PA Images

Former minister Hugo Swire last night tabled an amendment, understood to be with Downing Street's backing, effectively putting a one-year time limit on the arrangement, which is designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

The move is designed to allay concerns expressed by Tory Brexiteers and the DUP - who Mrs May relies on to prop up her government - that the UK could remain in the backstop indefinitely while negotiations on a long-term trade deal with the EU take place.

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But DUP leader Arlene Foster quickly made clear that it was not enough for her 10 MPs to support the Prime Minister in next Tuesday's crucial Commons vote on the Brexit deal.

She tweeted: "Domestic legislative tinkering won’t cut it. The legally binding international Withdrawal Treaty would remain fundamentally flawed as evidenced by the Attorney General’s legal advice."

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, a leading rebel, said: "Giving Parliament the choice between the devil and the deep blue sea is desperate and will persuade very few."

One senior Tory Brexiteer told PoliticsHome that the amendment would only succeeding in winning over rebels "if it is seems like it has real effect".

The row came as Mrs May continued to come under pressure from senior Tories to delay next week's vote amid concerns that the Government is on course for a crushing defeat.

Several Cabinet ministers urged the Prime Minister to consider a delay during emergency talks in Number 10 yesterday.

Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, also said a delay should be considered to allow more time for Mrs May to wring more concessions out of Brussels.

He told Sky News: "I don’t think there is any point in ploughing ahead and losing the vote heavily. What I would like is to have the reassurance that’s necessary that will answer the concerns that colleagues have, but if that reassurance isn’t available by Tuesday then I think it is perfectly sensible to delay for a few days."

Meanwhile, 30 ministers will carry out a series of visits across the UK today as part of efforts to persuade the public to support the Brexit deal.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will visit engineering companies in Peterborough and Donnington, Chancellor Philip Hammond will visit a school in Chertsey and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, will visit a local butchers in East Anglia.

Mrs May said: "We have delivered a deal that honours the vote of the British people.

"I’ve been speaking to factory workers in Scotland, farmers in Wales and people right across the country, answering their questions about the deal and our future. Overwhelmingly, the message I’ve heard is that people want us to get on with it. And that’s why it’s important that ministers are out speaking with communities across the UK today about how the deal works for them."