MAY’S PLAN B? TWEAK DEAL AND TRY IT AGAIN

She’s de­ter­mined to get agree­ment through even if it’s re­jected by MPs to­mor­row, says Brexit Sec­re­tary

Daily Mail - - News - By John Stevens Deputy Po­lit­i­cal Editor

IF THERESA May’s Brexit deal is re­jected by MPs to­mor­row, her ‘Plan B’ is to re­turn to the Com­mons with a sim­i­lar ver­sion, the Brexit Sec­re­tary said yes­ter­day.

Steve Bar­clay sug­gested the Prime Min­is­ter will not give up on her plan if it is de­feated, but in­stead make a sec­ond at­tempt to get it passed with a slightly amended agree­ment.

Mr Bar­clay said there had been ‘some move­ment’ from MPs to sup­port the Prime Min­is­ter’s Brexit deal – and a hand­ful of Tories who had pre­vi­ously been wa­ver­ing pledged last night to vote for it.

But when pressed on what hap­pens if it is voted down, Mr Bar­clay told the BBC’s An­drew Marr Show: ‘It will be for the House to de­cide what it is able to sup­port and I sus­pect it will be along the lines of this deal.

‘Be­cause this is the deal that de­liv­ers on what peo­ple like me – Brex­i­teers like me – cam­paigned for. This de­liv­ers for Brex­i­teers but does so in a way that re­spects the needs of the busi­ness com­mu­nity.’

The so-called ‘mean­ing­ful vote’ by MPs on the Brexit deal had been sched­uled to take place in De­cem­ber but was called off at the 11th hour with a govern­ment victory look­ing un­likely.

It is still ex­pected to be de­feated heav­ily to­mor­row, but Mrs May last night re­ceived a rare boost as four Brexit-back­ing Tory MPs – Sir Ge­of­frey Clifton Brown, Sir Ed­ward Leigh, Dr Caroline John­son and Dr An­drew Mur­ri­son – pub­licly came out in sup­port of it. The quar­tet ex­pressed ‘ mis­giv­ings’ about as­pects of the deal but said they had been con­vinced to vote for it be­cause of con­cerns about the threat to Brexit if it is voted down.

Labour MP John Mann also said he would vote for the deal. He told Sky News: ‘A day is a long time in pol­i­tics so things can change, but as it stands, it is likely I will vote for the deal.’

Former Tory min­is­ter Nick Boles last night warned the Prime Min­is­ter that she will need to come for­ward with something that is ‘quite sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent’ if her deal is de­feated.

Mr Boles, who is propos­ing a ‘Norway-plus’ option that would see the UK re­main in a cus­toms union with con­tin­ued free­dom of move­ment from the EU, ac­cused the Govern­ment of a ‘gross dere­lic­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity’ for not reach­ing out sooner to op­po­si­tion par­ties to find a com­pro­mise on Brexit.

Asked how he thought Mrs May would re­spond if her deal is de­feated, Mr Boles told the BBC: ‘It’s got to be something quite ma­jor be­cause what will not be ac­cept­able to Par­lia­ment is for her to run out the clock and just say, “well, I’ll come back and have an­other go in two weeks’ time in the hope that you’re all so scared wit­less that you start vot­ing for this deal that you’ve re­jected”.’

He added that he ‘ couldn’t be­lieve it’ when Labour’s shadow Brexit sec­re­tary Sir Keir Starmer told the Com­mons that the Govern­ment had not ap­proached him to dis­cuss a com­pro­mise.

He said: ‘It’s a gross dere­lic­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity by the end­less suc­ces­sion of Brexit sec­re­taries that have come and gone.

‘But now, finally, I think that the penny is drop­ping. My hope is that finally – af­ter the vote is lost on Tues­day night – finally the Prime Min­is­ter will re­alise this is what has to be done.’

But Brex­i­teers last night warned they would not ‘stand idly by’ if the Govern­ment seeks a cross-party agree­ment that leads to Bri­tain re­main­ing in a cus­toms union with the EU.

Tory MP Si­mon Clarke tweeted: ‘A per­ma­nent cus­toms union is un­think­able – a to­tal na­tional hu­mil­i­a­tion.

‘ If Con­ser­va­tive Re­main­ers think we would stand idly by and let that hap­pen...’

Former prime min­is­ter Sir John Ma­jor yes­ter­day called for ‘Ar­ti­cle 50’ – the for­mal process for leav­ing the EU – to be halted and warned that a ‘no-deal’ de­par­ture would be ‘morally rep­re­hen­si­ble’.

Mean­while, the Econ­o­mist In­tel­li­gence Unit (EIU) pre­dicted last night that Bri­tain was un­likely to leave the Euro­pean Union on March 29.

The fore­cast­ing group said it ex­pected Mrs May will lose the mean­ing­ful vote and will be forced to re­quest an ex­ten­sion to Ar­ti­cle 50. The EIU be­lieves Brus­sels will agree to an ex­ten­sion, mean­ing Bri­tain will re­main in the trade bloc be­yond the planned exit date.

Leav­ing the EU with­out a deal is the least likely out­come, ac­cord­ing to the fore­cast, which put the prob­a­bil­ity of a no-deal exit at 5 per cent.

In­stead, the EIU said there was a 40 per cent chance Mrs May’s deal will even­tu­ally be ap­proved by Par­lia­ment in a sub­se­quent vote, af­ter gain­ing fur­ther as­sur­ances from Brus­sels.

And it pre­dicted a 30 per cent prob­a­bil­ity of a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum be­ing called to break the po­lit­i­cal dead­lock.

‘Sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent’

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