Belfast Telegraph

‘Meaningful vote’ on Brexit deal to take place on December 11

Theresa May told MPs there is no better deal available to the UK than the agreement reached with EU nations on Sunday.

The Commons will vote on the Brexit deal on December 11 (Victoria Jones/PA)
The Commons will vote on the Brexit deal on December 11 (Victoria Jones/PA)

MPs will vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal on December 11 after five days of debate, the Prime Minister has confirmed.

The timing gives Mrs May a fortnight to avert what threatens to be a humiliating defeat at the hands of scores of Conservative rebels.

The PM received a largely hostile reception as she told the House of Commons her Brexit deal “delivers for the British people”, and warned that rejecting it would put the UK on the path to division and uncertainty.

She was loudly barracked by MPs as she insisted that no better deal was available than the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on future relations endorsed by EU leaders in Brussels on Sunday.

Former minister Mark Francois branded her deal a “surrender” and said opposition from Eurosceptic Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party meant it was already “dead as a dodo”.

Ex-defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon described the deal as “a huge gamble” which involved the UK paying a £39 billion divorce bill and giving up its votes and veto without any firm commitment on future trade relations.

But Mrs May said: “I believe our national interest is clear.

“The British people want us to get on with a deal that honours the referendum and allows us to come together again as a country, whichever way we voted.

“This is that deal. A deal that delivers for the British people.”

In a sign that she aims to go over fractious MPs’ heads and appeal directly to voters for their backing, Mrs May said parliamentarians had a “duty” to listen to their constituents before taking their decision in the national interest.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Commons would have “very little choice” but to reject Mrs May’s “botched” deal, which he described as “bad for this country”.

With 90 or more Conservative MPs indicating they could rebel in the “meaningful vote”, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay admitted Mrs May faces a “challenging” division.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warned that there would be no more negotiation if MPs vote down the agreement, telling the BBC: “This is the best deal for Britain … and this is the only deal possible, so if the House says no, we would have no deal.”

Addressing the Commons the day after returning from Brussels, Mrs May said: “I can say to the House with absolute certainty that there is not a better deal available.

“Our duty as a Parliament over these coming weeks is to examine this deal in detail, to debate it respectfully, to listen to our constituents and decide what is in our national interest.”

Mrs May said MPs faced a choice: “We can back this deal, deliver on the vote of the referendum and move on to building a brighter future of opportunity and prosperity for all our people. Or this House can choose to reject this deal and go back to square one.

“Because no-one knows what would happen if this deal doesn’t pass. It would open the door to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail.”

Mr Corbyn said: “The Prime Minister says if we reject this deal, it will take us back to square one. The truth is, under this Government we have never got off square one.

“This botched deal is still a bad deal for the country and all yesterday did was mark the end of this Government’s failed and miserable negotiations.”

Mrs May told MPs the Government had ensured that Gibraltar was covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and would negotiate a future relationship “for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar”.

She sent a message to residents of the Rock: “We will always stand by you. We are proud that Gibraltar is British and our position on sovereignty has not and will not change.”

In a riposte to French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion that the EU could delay trade talks unless its fishermen were granted access to UK waters, the PM said: “The EU have maintained throughout this process that they wanted to link overall access to markets to access to fisheries.

“They failed in the Withdrawal Agreement, and they failed again in the Political Declaration.

“It is no surprise some are already trying to lay down markers again for the future relationship, but they should be getting used to the answer by now: it is not going to happen.”

The PM told her Cabinet at a meeting on Monday morning that Sunday’s agreement was “a significant moment” which had proved wrong those who said it would not be possible to reach a deal.

The two-hour meeting also heard an update from Mr Barclay on preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit, which are continuing despite the deal being agreed in Brussels.

Following her address to the Commons, Mrs May was due to host a meeting at 10 Downing Street of more than 100 investors and employers from sectors including manufacturing, retail, food and drink and financial services to discuss the Brexit plan.

(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, Downing Street chief of staff Gavin Barwell and effective deputy prime minister David Lidington have invited opposition MPs to a briefing on the agreement.

But Downing Street sources said they were not aware of the Prime Minister seeking to speak to Labour MPs thought to be considering backing her deal.

Analysis by the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority of the impact of the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework on the UK economy is to be published on Thursday.

Ahead of the vote in Parliament, Mrs May has started a campaign to sell her deal directly to the public, with visits to all parts of the UK planned.

Her spokesman declined to confirm or deny reports that Number 10 is considering a possible TV debate with Mr Corbyn, something the Labour leader has made clear he would relish.



From Belfast Telegraph