Theresa May 'plotting last-ditch trip to Brussels' as defeat on her Brexit deal looms

Posted On: 
9th December 2018

Theresa May could delay this week’s crunch Commons vote on her Brexit deal and head to Brussels to demand last-minute changes, it has emerged.

The Prime Minister is braced for a major Commons defeat next week.
Credit: 
PA

According to the Sunday Times, the Prime Minister has been convinced by aides that she needs a Margaret Thatcher-style “handbag moment” with European leaders to stave off a hefty defeat and get her warring party to fall in line behind the agreement.

Mrs May is facing the prospect of scores of her own MPs voting against the deal, with the DUP - who the Prime Minister relies on for a Commons majority - also vowing to reject it on Tuesday.

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But the paper reports that the PM could announce as early as Monday that she is returning to Brussels to try to demand changes to the beleaguered agreement, which last night triggered yet another government resignation.

One cabinet minister said: "People in No 10 think she needs to have a ‘handbag moment’ where she says: ‘Up with this I will not put.’"

In a fresh blow for the Prime Minister, Will Quince - the Brexit-supporting parliamentary aide to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson - announced he was quitting in opposition to the deal’s Northern Ireland backstop, which will kick in if the UK and EU cannot find a way to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Colchester MP warned that the proposal, which Britain cannot quit unilaterally, would leave the UK “tied to the negotiating table for years”.

“I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond,” he said in a scathing editorial for the Sunday Telegraph.

“Unless and until this is amended, the Withdrawal Agreement cannot receive my support. How can we realistically expect to secure a good deal under such circumstances, with such a power imbalance?”

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In a last-ditch plea to convince her party to get behind her, Mrs May warned MPs that failing to back her deal risked ushering Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.

She told the Mail on Sunday that voting down her deal would leave the UK “in uncharted waters”, adding: “It would mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit."

"We have a leader of the Opposition who thinks of nothing but attempting to bring about a General Election, no matter what the cost to the country… I believe Jeremy Corbyn getting his hands on power is a risk we cannot afford to take."

But the Prime Minister's deal on Sunday drew fresh criticism from a powerful cross-party group of MPs.

A new report from the Exiting the European Union Committee, published just days before the crucial Commons vote, brands the agreement a "huge step into the unknown".

It says the draft political declaration setting out Britain's future ties with Brussels is "neither detailed nor substantive".

And committee chair and Hilary Benn said Mrs May had "refused to face up to the hard choices confronting us".

The senior Labour MP added: "The political declaration falls far short of the 'detailed and substantive' document promised by former secretaries of state and by the EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

"It does not give the British people or our businesses the clarity and the certainty they need about our future trading relationship with the EU in five or 10 years' time."