THERESA May has tonight begged rebellious Tory MPs to help her Brexit deal pass second time around – but Brexiteers are vowing to kill her lifeline.
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, has tabled a Commons motion which would scrap the hated Irish backstop, and MPs have been told they must vote for it.
The senior MP today insisted the move would allow Mrs May to return to Brussels and negotiate tweaks to the Brexit deal, allowing it to pass through the Commons in weeks.
Tonight Mrs May told MPs she would back the Sir Graham Brady amendment – and would force all Tories to vote for it.
She revealed that politicians would be asked to have another crunch vote on her deal on February 13 and she will “battle away” to get it through.
But Tories in the Leave-backing European Research Group are bitterly divided on whether to back her.
Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who heads up the group, dealt her a blow tonight by announcing that his colleagues WON’T sign up to Sir Graham’s amendment – effectively killing off her lifeline to save the deal.
And she also had a ding-dong with the ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson where he told her: “What do YOU want to do, Prime Minister?”
As the PM faces another crunch week on Brexit:
- Downing Street has warned a bid to rule out No Deal could see Brexit delayed indefinitely
- Pro-EU ministers threatened to quit if Mrs May fails to strike a deal within a fortnight
- Boris Johnson promised to back her if she succeeds in renegotiating the backstop
- A leading business group became the first to call for the backstop to be dropped
- Ireland’s government signalled the deal could be rewritten
- Gordon Brown said Brexit should be pushed back by a year to sort out the chaos
Tomorrow evening MPs will have a say on the way forward for Brexit, with half a dozen different options set to go up for a vote.
Sir Graham’s amendment states that the Commons is ready to back Mrs May’s original deal, which was heavily defeated earlier this month, as long as the Irish backstop is “replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border”.
Brexiteers fear the current backstop agreed by the PM would keep Britain tied to the EU indefinitely by keeping us in the customs union.
LIFELINE AHEAD OF CRUNCH VOTE
Sir Graham said he was “delighted” that the PM had got behind his amendment.
He told the BBC earlier: “If we can win the vote on my amendment, then I think it gives the Prime Minister enormous firepower when she goes back.
“If my amendment is carried, she goes back to Brussels and says – you wanted to know what we can get through the House of Commons? This is it.”
The odds on a No Deal outcome fell after the amendment was published as bookies said the Brexiteers were likely to “fall into line and back May”.
Sir Graham insisted the EU would be willing to compromise if they knew that just one change was needed to get the deal through.
My amendment gives the Prime Minister enormous firepower
Sir Graham Brady
In a warning to the EU, Mrs May’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is absolutely committed to leaving the EU with a deal, but clearly if we are to obtain parliamentary support for that deal, some changes will have to be made.”
Brexiteer Scott Mann – who quit the government over the PM’s deal – said tonight he would back the plan.
But several hardline Brexiteers said they won’t get behind it because it’s not legally binding on the Government.
Mr Rees-Mogg said this evening: “As it stand we are not supporting any amendments. The backstop is the major bone of contention but not the only one.
“The emphasis on Graham Brady’s amendment is too great. I don’t think it changes anything.”
Meanwhile the PM had a public debate in front other MPs with Boris Johnson.
He said to her: “What do YOU want to do Prime Minister?” and asked what change the Sir Graham amendment would actually do.
She replied: “We won’t know unless you support us.”
I've signed the Brady amendment.
— Scott Mann (@scottmann4NC) January 28, 2019
In a boost to the PM, the Irish Times reported today that Ireland is prepared to reopen the withdrawal agreement – despite claiming in public that it’s impossible.
A source told the paper that talks on legally changing the deal could take place if Britain changes its red lines.
No10 is believed to be preparing to amend the backstop to ensure that Northern Ireland isn’t subjected to a new legal regime without the say-so of local politicians.
Today the UK Chamber of Shipping came out against the backstop – saying it should be dropped in order to ensure a deal is passed.
CEO Bob Sanguinetti said: “The only way to truly take No Deal off the table and guarantee an orderly exit is to revisit the withdrawal agreement.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that many more MPs would support the agreement if the Irish backstop proposal was either scrapped entirely or time-limited.”
Tomorrow night MPs will vote on a series of amendments issuing instructions to the Government on how to proceed.
It is up to Speaker John Bercow to decide which amendments are voted on.
The Brady amendment could pass if the Government backs it and the DUP is on board – but if Mr Bercow refuses to call it for a vote, Mrs May’s lifeline will be destroyed.
Today a senior minister broke ranks to state that if the PM can’t get her deal through, she should tack towards a softer Brexit which would keep the UK inside Europe’s customs union.
Digital Minister Margot James said the concession – which would stop Britain cutting new trade deals – would be the only way to bring other parties on board.