May’s fresh bid to win over crit­ics

PM MAKES PLAN TO WOO BOTH SIDES

Sunday Sun - - News -

THERESA May will con­tinue ef­forts to win over Tory crit­ics of her Brexit deal as MPS re­turn to West­min­ster, but both wings of the party warned that the plan is un­likely to re­ceive sup­port.

As the Com­mons re­turns from its Christ­mas break, the Prime Min­is­ter is ex­pected to step up ef­forts to woo po­ten­tial rebels while work­ing with Brus­sels on fur­ther safe­guards to ad­dress con­cerns about the With­drawal Agree­ment.

But a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Tory Brex­i­teers re­main op­posed to the With­drawal Agree­ment and ap­pear re­laxed about the prospect of a no-deal sce­nario with the UK leav­ing the Euro­pean Union on March 29 with no tran­si­tional ar­range­ments in place.

For­mer Cabi­net min­is­ter Sir John Red­wood said a no-deal Brexit “will work just fine” de­spite the “id­i­otic” warn­ings about po­ten­tial short­ages of food and medicines.

On the other side of the Tory di­vide, proeu vet­eran Ken Clarke said Mrs May’s deal – which he would be pre­pared to sup­port – is “dy­ing” and he would be “amazed” if the mood of MPS had changed over the Christ­mas break.

In­stead, he called for Brexit to be de­layed un­til a way for­ward can be found.

The Prime Min­is­ter de­layed a vote on her Brexit deal last month, with MPS set to re­sume de­bate on it on Wednesday ahead of a vote the fol­low­ing week.

She is said to be con­sid­er­ing of­fer­ing MPS fur­ther safe­guards about the Ir­ish back­stop – the mea­sure aimed at pre­vent­ing a hard border on the is­land of Ire­land which crit­ics fear could leave the UK in­def­i­nitely bound into a cus­toms union with the EU and pre­vent fu­ture trade deals with coun­tries around the world.

But for­mer Brexit min­is­ter Steve Baker re­jected the pro­pos­als, say­ing they were a “te­dious and des­per­ate at­tempt to res­cue an un­sal­vage­able deal”.

The Daily Mail re­ported the PM is work­ing on a “dou­ble lock” to put a time limit on the back­stop. Of­fi­cials are re­port­edly draw­ing up a pos­si­ble Com­mons amend­ment to the Brexit vote which would give Par­lia­ment the right to serve no­tice to the EU of an in­ten­tion to quit the back­stop af­ter 12 months if Brus­sels fails to agree a trade deal with the UK that would re­solve the is­sue.

Mean­while, Mrs May is also seek­ing a writ­ten guar­an­tee from the EU that a trade deal can be agreed within 12 months of the tran­si­tion pe­riod end­ing.

The Times re­ported that the Prime Min­is­ter will host Con­ser­va­tive Brex­i­teers for drinks to­mor­row and Wednesday as part of a charm of­fen­sive.

On Fri­day, Mrs May had a “friendly” call with Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Jean-claude Juncker and the pair are ex­pected to keep in touch next week, fu­elling spec­u­la­tion about ef­forts to win fur­ther con­ces­sions from Brus­sels ahead of the Com­mons vote, widely ex­pected to be on Jan­uary 15.

But Brex­i­teer Sir John told BBC Ra­dio 4’s To­day pro­gramme he could not sup­port the deal, and added: “Many of us in the coun­try just want to move on and talk about some­thing else, we want to be out and we know it will work just fine.”

As part of the no-deal plan­ning, a ma­jor ex­er­cise will take place to­mor­row with up to 150 lor­ries test­ing out plans to use Manston air­field near Rams­gate as a mass “HGV hold­ing fa­cil­ity” to al­le­vi­ate con­ges­tion on the roads to the Chan­nel ports.

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