Theresa May has been told by her own MPs the Brexit deal she has agreed is a “huge gamble” that will put the UK under “intolerable pressure”, in a rocky start for a two-week campaign to get it through Parliament.
The Prime Minister confirmed that MPs will vote on 11 December to approve the Brexit terms signed off by EU leaders at the weekend.
But with nearly 100 Conservative MPs now saying they oppose the deal, Downing Street risked sparking outrage on the Government’s own benches by inviting Labour MPs to a briefing on the deal, in the hope of winning over parliamentarians representing Brexit-voting districts.
Mrs May will take her campaign for the deal directly to the public today, visiting Wales and Northern Ireland to argue that it will deliver for the Union. She will visit Scotland later this week.
“My deal delivers for every corner of the UK and I will work hard to strengthen the bonds that unite us as we look ahead to our future outside of the EU,” Mrs May said, adding she had “fought to ensure that powers returning from the EU will be restored to the National Assembly for Wales, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly”.
READ MORE: Brexit: British and EU leaders warn ‘there is no plan B’
The Prime Minister also came under attack from senior Brexiteers including Iain Duncan Smith, Boris Johnson and David Davis.
Downing Street also stepped up the campaign in Parliament, writing to MPs with an explicit warning that voting against the deal could result in a second EU referendum that reverses Brexit. It was confirmed there will be five days of debate over two weeks, starting on 4 December.
Yesterday the Prime Minister made her third Commons statement in less than a fortnight, bringing to nearly nine hours the amount of time she has spent facing largely hostile questions from MPs.
She appealed to Brexiteers in her own party not to reject the deal, insisting that it “delivers for the British people”.
But she found little support on her own benches, with nearly an hour passing before any MP spoke up in favour.
In a worrying sign for Downing Street, the former defence secretary Michael Fallon, seen as a loyal figure, warned the deal was a “huge gamble” that traded away large amounts of sovereignty without any guarantee of a positive trade deal.
Mrs May tried to tackle the source of Brexiteer anger head on, saying the UK would have crashed out of the EU unless it had accepted the Irish border backstop.
“I do not pretend that either we or the EU are entirely happy with these arrangements,” she said. “But there is no alternative deal that honours our commitments to Northern Ireland which does not involve this insurance policy. And the EU would not have agreed any future partnership without it.”
She added: “Put simply, there is no deal that comes without a backstop, and without a backstop there is no deal.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Commons would have “very little choice” but to reject Mrs May’s “botched” deal. He said: “There can be no doubt this deal would leave us with the worst of all worlds – no say over future rules and no certainty for the future.”
He added: “Ploughing on is not stoic, it’s an act of national self-harm. Instead of threatening this House with a no-deal scenario of a no-Brexit scenario, the Prime Minister now needs to prepare a plan B.”
There was evidence of another appeal for cross-party support when Mrs May said she was wrong for suggesting EU nationals had “jumped the queue” ahead of immigrants from other countries. She told the SNP’s Philippa Whitford: “I should not have used that language in that speech.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford had earlier attacked Mrs May over the comments, calling them a “slur” and telling the Commons the Brexit deal “blatantly disregards the rights that we will all lose to live and work in Europe. We are not prepared to give up those rights”.
He also emphasised the SNP’s support for another referendum on EU membership.
The Scottish Government will publish its analysis of the economic impact from Mrs May’s Brexit deal today.
Constitutional relations secretary Michael Russell said it was now clear that MPs were being asked to vote on a “blindfold Brexit with major issues left unresolved”.