May makes eleventh-hour Brexit plea to Tory MPS

PM says fail­ure to back her deal would be cat­a­strophic breach of trust in democ­racy

Business Day (Nigeria) - - FINANCIAL TIMES - JIM PICKARD

Th e resa May ha s launched an eleven­th­hour plea to MPS to back her Brexit deal in Tues­day’s crunch vote, warn­ing that a fail­ure to de­liver Brexit would rep­re­sent a “cat­a­strophic and un­for­giv­able breach of trust in our democ­racy”.

Writ­ing in the Sun­day Ex­press, the Bri­tish prime min­is­ter in­sisted that Con­ser­va­tive MPS who did not back her agree­ment risked ei­ther no Brexit or a no-deal Brexit. “My mes­sage to Par­lia­ment this week­end is sim­ple: It is time to for­get the games and do what is right for our coun­try.”

Sep­a­rately, Stephen Bar­clay, the Brexit sec­re­tary, said there were wor­ry­ing signs that Par­lia­ment would try to thwart Britain leav­ing the EU. “The pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing the prize we all fought for is now very real,” he wrote in The Sun­day Tele­graph. “Par­lia­ment has to be for some­thing. It is not good enough to sim­ply say what it is against.”

Ac­cord­ing to some es­ti­mates the gov­ern­ment could be on track for an epic de­feat on Tues­day evening, by as much as 200 votes when its with­drawal agree­ment with Brus­sels is put to a House of Com­mons vote.

Jean-claude Juncker, the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, is set to make a fi­nal ef­fort to save the deal by mak­ing prom­ises to try to limit the con­tentious Ir­ish back­stop to no more than a year. Mr Juncker and Mrs May are to co-or­di­nate an ex­change of let­ters, prob­a­bly on Mon­day, to try to win over wa­ver­ing Euroscep­tic MPS.

Down­ing Street ex­pressed alarm on Sun­day af­ter it emerged that a cross-party group of MPS was seek­ing to change the Com­mons rules to en­able back­bench mo­tions to take prece­dence over gov­ern­ment busi­ness if Mrs May’s deal is de­feated on Tues­day. That would over­turn a prece­dent dat­ing back to the 1880s.

In the­ory MPS could then com­pel the gov­ern­ment to de­lay Ar­ti­cle 50, mean­ing that Brexit would not take place as planned at the end of March.

It is thought that the mea­sure could even give MPS the power to try to force a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. “This is ex­tremely con­cern­ing,” a Num­ber 10 source said. “If suc­cess­ful this would give MPS pow­ers to con­trol not only what hap­pens to Brexit leg­is­la­tion but all leg­is­la­tion. It rep­re­sents a real threat to all gov­ern­ment busi­ness.”

Ju­lian Smith, the chief whip, com­mis­sioned writ­ten le­gal ad­vice about the plans, ac­cord­ing to The Sun­day Times. The en­su­ing doc­u­ment says that the move by MPS would rep­re­sent “a clear and present dan­ger” to all gov­ern­ment busi­ness: “The gov­ern­ment would lose its abil­ity to gov­ern.”

Chris Les­lie, a Eu­rophile Labour MP, said the idea of a back­bencher plot was “spin” from Down­ing Street. In re­al­ity it would be hard to change Com­mons Stand­ing Or­der 14 — which says gov­ern­ment busi­ness al­ways has prece­dence, be­cause the gov­ern­ment it­self would have to al­lo­cate time for de­bat­ing and vot­ing on such a change.

“I don’t be­lieve Down­ing Street is wor­ried about any stand­ing or­der changes, they are hyp­ing it to frighten the Euroscep­tic ERG [Euro­pean Re­search Group] into fall­ing back into line,” he told the Fi­nan­cial Times.

What was more broadly true, Mr Les­lie said, was that Par­lia­ment was seek­ing to take back con­trol through ex­ist­ing mech­a­nisms — such as by seek­ing to amend next week’s Busi­ness of the House mo­tion.

Chris Grayling, trans­port sec­re­tary, told Sky News that if Par­lia­ment thwarted Brexit the UK could see the ar­rival in the UK of the kind of pop­ulist “po­lit­i­cal ex­trem­ism” seen in much of main­land Europe.

John Ma­jor, for­mer Tory prime min­is­ter, said that re­vok­ing Ar­ti­cle 50 was now the “only sen­si­ble course” to take in or­der to carry out a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. “Jump­ing off a cliff has never had a happy end­ing,” Sir John wrote in The Sun­day Times.

Jeremy Cor­byn, the Labour party leader, is ex­pected to launch a vote of no con­fi­dence in the gov­ern­ment within hours of Mrs May’s ex­pected de­feat, set­ting the scene for a vote as early as Wed­nes­day.

How­ever, Mr Cor­byn has not con­firmed any such plan, given that he is un­likely to muster enough votes to win in those cir­cum­stances.

He is re­fus­ing to say whether Labour would back Brexit in a snap gen­eral elec­tion. Asked re­peat­edly on the BBC’S The An­drew Marr Show whether a Labour man­i­festo would back leav­ing the EU, he re­fused to an­swer five times. He also in­di­cated that he did not want a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, say­ing he would “rather get a ne­go­ti­ated deal now”.

Theresa May: ‘My mes­sage to Par­lia­ment this week­end is sim­ple: It is time to for­get the games and do what is right for our coun­try’ © Getty

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