Theresa May says MPs must ‘hold our nerve’ as ministers push for last-ditch Brexit deal

Posted On: 
12th February 2019

Theresa May has called on MPs to “hold our nerve” as she continues to press the European Union for concessions that could see a Brexit deal backed by the Commons.

Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street ahead of her Brexit statement
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister said that talks with Brussels were "at a crucial stage" but insisted she was still aiming for the UK to quit the EU on 29 March with an agreement in place.

Mrs May is still seeking legally-binding changes to the Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed to ensure no return to a hard border in Ireland.

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MPs are due to vote on the latest Brexit state of play on Thursday, and the Prime Minister confirmed they will have another vote on 27 February.

However, she refused to rule out the possibility that she may not be able to return to the Commons with a new deal until March.

She said: "The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House requires and deliver Brexit on time.

"By getting the changes we need to the backstop; by protecting and enhancing workers’ rights and environmental protections; and by enhancing the role of Parliament in the next phase of negotiations I believe we can reach a deal that this House can support."

But Jeremy Corbyn said the PM was "recklessly running down the clock" in a bid to "blackmail" MPs.

“The Prime Minister has just told members of this House to hold their nerve. Tell that to Nissan workers in Sunderland and the thousands more worried about their job security,” he said.

“Mr Speaker, no minister serious about protecting jobs in this country would allow a Prime Minister to deliberately run down the clock and play chicken with people’s livelihoods. 

“To stand by and do nothing would be a complete dereliction of duty.”

The Labour leader also hit out at the PM’s letter in response to his call for a compromise deal, where she pledged to look at the proposal of a permanent customs union and close ties with the single market.

"She has not indicated she will move one iota away from her rejected deal or any of her red lines," he added.

"On the backstop the Prime Minister has pointed out Labour also has concerns. But let’s make no mistake about it - that has never been our major issue with the Prime Minister’s deal.

"Indeed in order to stop the UK falling into the backstop you need a permanent customs union and a strong single market deal. That is key to maintaining an open border on the island of Ireland."

Earlier today, EU Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt ramped up Brussels' calls for Mrs May to try and win Labour's backing to see the deal through rather than looking to appease Tory hardliners.

“If you read carefully the letters that have been exchanged it becomes clear that the position in fact of the two leaders are not so far from each other, even when the main issue is naturally the customs union that is proposed by Mr Corbyn," he said.

The MEP added that a "technical majority" of 20 votes or fewer "doesn’t make sense" given that more legislation relating to Britain's withdrawal will follow.