May strives to win coun­try round to deal

● Prime minister to de­ploy dozens of her min­is­ters to ad­dress dwin­dling sup­port


Theresa May will send dozens of her min­is­ters to all cor­ners of the coun­try to­day as she fights to keep her Brexit deal alive ahead of next week’s Com­mons vote. In an at­tempt to boost dwin­dling sup­port, the prime minister has also sig­nalled MPs could be given the power to de­cide whether the UK en­ters the so-called back­stop ar­range­ment.

This is aimed at pre­vent­ing a hard border on Ire­land un­til a per­ma­nent fu­ture re­la­tion­ship re­place­ment is agreed.

Mrs May in­di­cated yesterday that par­lia­ment could have a role in de­cid­ing whether to ex­tend the tran­si­tion pe­riod or en­ter the back­stop ar­range­ment, if no trade deal has been reached by the end of De­cem­ber 2020.

And the gov­ern­ment is un­der­stood to be con­sid­er­ing an amend­ment to next Tues­day’s vote mo­tion that would give MPs more say.

But amid calls from se­nior Con­ser­va­tives to de­lay the show­down on the with­drawal agree­ment and po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion, Num­ber 10 made clear Mrs May would not post­pone it, even though she looks likely to suf­fer a crip­pling de­feat.

As around 30 min­is­ters pre­pared to try to sell the deal to ev­ery na­tion and re­gion of the coun­try, the Tory leader – who switched on the Down­ing Street Christ­mas tree lights last night – said her pack­age hon­oured the 2016 de­ci­sion of the Bri­tish peo­ple.

She added: “I’ve been speak­ing to fac­tory work­ers in Scot­land, farm­ers in Wales and peo­ple right across the coun­try, an­swer­ing their ques­tions about the deal and our fu­ture.

“Over­whelm­ingly, the mes­sage I’ve heard is peo­ple want us to get on with it.

“And that’s why it’s im­por­tant that min­is­ters are out speak­ing with com­mu­ni­ties across the UK to­day about how the deal works for them.”

Scot­tish Sec­re­tary David Mun­dell will host a meet­ing in Glas­gow with em­ploy­ers from across Scot­land, while Brexit Sec­re­tary Stephen Bar­clay vis­its en­gi­neer­ing com­pa­nies in Peter­bor­ough.

The chan­cel­lor will be at a school in Sur­rey, as David Lid­ing­ton, minister for the Cab­i­net Of­fice, speaks to small busi­ness representatives in Belfast.

News of the tour came as Ni­cola Stur­geon said the chances of stop­ping Brexit and keep­ing the UK in the EU are the great­est they have been since the 2016 vote.

The first minister said: “I do op­pose all and ev­ery kind of Brexit, I don’t want Brexit to hap­pen.

“I do think there is a greater prospect of achiev­ing that aim now than there has ap­peared to be at any time over the last two-and-a-half years.”

Mean­while, Tory Sir Gra­ham Brady, chair­man of the back­bench 1922 Com­mit­tee, said he would wel­come Tues­day’s vote be­ing de­ferred if no so­lu­tion could be found to dif­fer­ences within the party over the back­stop.

And for­mer prime minister Tony Blair said Mrs May was fac­ing the prospect of “hit­ting a brick wall at speed” and would be bet­ter ad­vised to act as “fa­cil­i­ta­tor” in the search for a Brexit so­lu­tion which can com­mand the sup­port of a ma­jor­ity of MPs.

But Down­ing Street dis­missed sug­ges­tions the vote would be de­layed, with a spokes­woman in­sist­ing it would “take place on Tues­day as planned”.

Ear­lier in the day, Mrs May sug­gested MPs could be “given a role” in de­cid­ing whether to trig­ger the back­stop in the event the ne­go­ti­a­tions on the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship do not con­clude in time.

She said: “There will be a choice be­tween, if we get to that point, a choice be­tween go­ing into the back­stop and ex­tend­ing the tran­si­tion pe­riod.”

Asked if she would be happy for par­lia­ment to ad­ju­di­cate on that ques­tion, the PM said: “I think peo­ple are con­cerned about the role of the UK in mak­ing these de­ci­sions.”

“Min­is­ters are out speak­ing with com­mu­ni­ties”

Scot­tish Sec­re­tary David Mun­dell will talk to em­ploy­ers at a Glas­gow meet­ing

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