May warns Brexiteers of EU trap
MPs are duty-bound to implement the will of the people
Theresa May was to launch a lastditch appeal to Brexiteers to back her last night, warning them that staying in the EU was now more likely than their preferred option of leaving with no deal.
The British Prime Minister will intensify the pressure on MPs with a speech in a pro-Leave seat, attempting to limit her expected defeat when parliament votes on her withdrawal agreement tomorrow. She will tell pro-Brexit MPs that last week’s Westminster drama showed they were likely to be outflanked by members seeking to thwart Britain’s exit altogether.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow infuriated the government by agreeing that MPs could vote on an amendment by Dominic Grieve, a pro-Remain Tory, forcing her to come back with a plan B within days of losing a first vote.
On Sunday, there were claims that Remainers were plotting a “coup” that would sideline the Prime Minister if she lost the crunch vote tomorrow. Tory chief whip Julian Smith was said to have briefed the Prime Minister that she could lose the ability to govern if the attempt to change Commons rules — so that motions proposed by backbenchers can take precedence over government business — succeeded.
Brexiteers suggested, however, that the idea was cooked up by 10 Downing Street to scare them.
As a crucial week for Mrs May began:
EU sources said Brussels was preparing to grant Britain an extension of the Article 50 process, which could push Brexit day back by months.
MPs vowed to test parliamentary support for another referendum this week.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May would face a no-confidence vote in her government “soon” if she failed to get her deal through.
A cabinet minister repeated warnings that Britain would face a rise in political extremism if MPs blocked Brexit.
Mrs May can take limited comfort in some MPs publicly converting to her deal. Edward Leigh, whom she appointed to the Privy Council last month, and three other Tory Brexiteers backed it yesterday. Kevin Barron, a Remain-supporting Labour MP, said he, too, would vote for the plan.
However, these switches are unlikely to significantly reduce the scale of the defeat she is facing, which could be one of the biggest embarrassments that a modern government has experienced.
In the speech to be given to factory workers in Stoke-on-Trent last night, she says she believes that it is more likely that MPs will block Brexit than Britain will leave without an agreement.
She adds: “I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy.
“What if we found ourselves in a situation where parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a Remain vote? People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.”
Cabinet ministers lined up to warn Brexiteers that they risked no Brexit after reports of Remainers’ plots.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who made the comments about the country facing a rise in extremism, said it would be a “huge mistake” for MPs to attempt to take control of the Brexit process. He confirmed that military planners from the Ministry of Defence were working in vital ministries to help with no-deal contingencies.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Bar- clay said: “Those on the Brexiteer side seeking ideological purity with a deal are risking Brexit.”
Asked about Mrs May’s plan B, he said he strongly suspected that the Commons would end up voting for something “along the lines” of her present deal.
If it fails tomorrow, the Grieve amendment requires Mrs May to bring back an alternative by next Monday. MPs are due to continue their debate on the deal last night and tonight.
Nick Boles, his Tory colleague Caroline Spelman, Labour MP Jack Dromey and others are working on parliamentary moves to rule out no-deal.
Another group of MPs, including Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, Mr Grieve and Lab- our’s Chuka Umunna were to publish draft legislation last night to set out how to achieve another referendum before May.
The Liberal Democrats said they would attempt to bring forward a parliamentary vote on another referendum this week if Labour tabled a no-confidence vote, as it is expected to do.
Mrs May was hoping to bolster her position last night with written assurances from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on the Irish backstop. However, any concessions are expected to fall short of the demands of her backbenchers and the Democratic Unionist Party.
British democracy faces a stern test early tomorrow in the crucial House of Commons vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. With much of her Conservative Party against her, she appears headed for defeat. Polling also suggests that a majority of the 650 MPs, from nine parties large and small, would prefer not to see Britain withdraw from the EU.
Deciding the fate of Mrs May’s widely criticised deal is one thing. What must not be put at risk in the debate and whatever follows is Brexit itself, which represents the democratic will of the British people, expressed in the 2016 referendum. The House of Commons, which is due to pass judgment on Mrs May’s deal, voted in 2015 by 544-53 to hold the referendum in June 2016, which resulted in the solid vote in favour of Brexit. The Conservative government at the time, led by David Cameron, pledged to implement whatever decision the people made.
In the subsequent 2017 general election called by Mrs May, both the Conservatives and the Labour Party promised unequivocally to implement the voters’ Brexit mandate. The Tories’ manifesto declared “no deal is better than a bad deal”. Whatever the outcome of today’s vote, MPs on all sides must stand by their pledges and not try to renege on implementing the will of the electorate.
Analysts widely believe a no-deal Brexit would not be in Britain’s or the EU’s best interests. But as economics editor Adam Creighton has pointed out, Britain has nothing to fear if that is what eventuates. After two years of deepening uncertainty, mainly due to Mrs May’s poor handling of the Brexit negotiations and the destructive behaviour of ambitious hardliners within her own party, British MPs now face a choice between her bad deal and a no-deal break with the EU. Rarely, in recent decades, has the House of Commons faced a decision with more far-reaching consequences for Britain’s future. Whatever it decides, it must not be allowed to obviate parliament’s responsibility to ensure the Brexit that Britons voted for is delivered. Anything less would make a mockery of British democracy.
Theresa May and husband Philip leave church near her Maidenhead constituency, west of London, at the weekend