Theresa May issues unity plea to Tory MPs and warns 'history will judge us' if Brexit is botched

Posted On: 
17th February 2019

Theresa May has urged her warring Tory MPs to unite and warned them “history will judge us all” if the party makes a mess of Brexit.

Theresa May issued the plea to her troops amid deadlock in Parliament
PA Images

In a letter to the 317 Conservative representatives in Parliament, she called on critics of her deal with the EU to “sacrifice if necessary our own personal preferences” in order to prevent a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all.

She made the plea as she scrambled to secure tweaks to her Brexit deal that the Commons can support, amid deadlock over the controversial backstop plan to keep the Northern Ireland border open.

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Mrs May was sent back to the negotiating table in Brussels when the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration she struck with the EU were comprehensively rejected by MPs last month.

The divisions in the Tory party were again laid bare on Thursday when pro-Brexit Tory rebels inflicted a fresh Commons defeat on the Government over a row about a meaningless Commons motion.

A vote on a tweaked deal, or on the next steps if no concessions are secured, is now planned for 27 February - but Mrs May issued a desperate plea to her MPs to compromise.

“History will judge us all for the parts we have played in this process,” she warned.

“I do not underestimate how deeply or how sincerely colleagues hold the views which they do on this important issue - or that we are all motivated by a common desire to do what is best for our country, even if we disagree on the means of doing so.

“But I believe that a failure to make the compromises necessary to reach and take through Parliament a withdrawal agreement which delivers on the result of the referendum will let down the people who sent us to represent them and risk the bright future that they all deserve.”

Mrs May said she will meet European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker next week and speak to every EU leader in the coming days.

The backstop would see the UK remain closely tied to EU trade rules if no agreement is in place by the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of December 2021.

Critics argue it could see the UK subject to EU rules indefinitely and could lead to the breakup of the UK.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will set out what changes he thinks are needed to the backstop in a speech on Tuesday, while Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will hold talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier tomorrow.

But the Sunday Times said Steve Baker - the deputy chair of the European Research Group of hardcore pro-Brexit Tory MPs - told his allies continued negotiations on the backstop were a “complete waste of time”.