MPs line up to savage Theresa May’s Brexit deal as she fights for political survival
Theresa May faced a cross-party onslaught of criticism over her Brexit deal today as she fought for her political life.
The Prime Minister was grilled by MPs in the wake of the Cabinet giving the green light to the draft withdrawal agreement she has struck with Brussels.
Before she had even arrived in the House of Commons, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey both resigned in protest at her Brexit blueprint.
Junior ministers Shailesh Vara and Seuella Braverman also quit, and speculation is mounting that more frontbenchers will follow suit throughout the day.
Despite those blows, Mrs May insisted she was still determined to put her proposal to a Commons vote next month and asked MPs to back it "in the national interest".
She said: "Voting against a deal would take us all back to square one. It would mean more uncertainty, more division, and a failure to deliver on the decision of the British people that we should leave the EU.
"If we get behind a deal, we can bring our country back together and seize the opportunities that lie ahead. The British people want us to get this done. And to get on with addressing the other issues they care about."
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the draft withdrawal agreement as a "botched deal that breaches the Prime Minister’s own red lines" as well as the six tests set for it by his party.
"The Government is in chaos," he said. "Their deals risks leaving the country in an indefinite half-way house without a real say when even the last Brexit Secretary who, theoretically at least, negotiated the deal, says ‘I cannot support the proposed deal’ what faith does that give anyone else in this place or in this country?"
In a brutal intervention, DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds told the Prime Minister she could no longer be trusted.
He said: "I could today stand here and take the Prime Minister through the list of promises and pledges that she made to this House and to us, privately, about the future of Northern Ireland and the future relationship with the EU. But I fear it would be a waste of time since she clearly doesn't listen.
"The choice is now clear. We stand up for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom, or we vote for a vassal state with the break-up of the United Kingdom."
Tory MPs also lined up to condemn the deal as the Prime Minister had to wait nearly an hour before anyone rose to support her.
Leading eurosceptic Mark Francois said: "Prime Minister, the whole House accepts that you have done your best. But the Labour party have made plain today that they will vote against this deal. The SNP will vote against it. The Liberals will vote against it. The DUP will vote against it - our key ally in this place will vote against it.
"Over 80 Tory backbenchers, well it’s 84 now and it’s going up by the hour, will vote against it. It is therefore mathematically impossible to get this deal through the House of Commons. The stark reality, Prime Minister, is that it was dead on arrival at St Tommy’s before you stood up.
"So I plead with you - I plead with you to accept the political reality of the situation you now face."
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the European Research Group of Brexiteer Tory backbenchers, dropped a strong hint that he will submit a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister with Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee.
However, former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, a leading Remain supporter, gave the withdrawal agreement her backing.
She said: "I want to pay tribute to the fact that the Prime Minister did get agreement in Cabinet. And can she reassure us that regardless of however many ministerial resignations there are between now and that vote that the agreement will come to Parliament and Parliament will have its say and that she is clear that voting that agreement is in the national interest?"
Downing Street sources later insisted that the Prime Minister still believed she would be in her post when Britain leaves the EU next March - and that there will be no general election before 2022.
They also ruled out the prospect of the Commons vote on the deal being a free vote, a key demand of International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who is also tipped to quit the Cabinet.