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Failure to back agreement will give Corbyn keys to No 10, Tories warned

By Gavin Cordon

Theresa May has issued a last-ditch appeal to Tory MPs to back her Brexit plan - warning that defeat in today's crunch vote could hand the keys of No 10 to Jeremy Corbyn.

With the Government braced for a crushing defeat, the Prime Minister told a private meeting of Conservatives at Westminster they had a duty to deliver on the EU referendum vote.

It followed warnings that pro-Remain MPs are preparing to seize control of the Commons timetable in a bid to thwart Brexit altogether.

The deal suffered its first official parliamentary defeat in the House of Lords last night as peers voted by 321 votes to 152 - a majority of 169 - to reject it.

In the Commons, Mrs May warned any move by MPs to prevent the UK leaving the EU would be a "subversion of democracy".

While she acknowledged that the Withdrawal Agreement was "not perfect", she urged MPs on all sides to give it a "second look". "When the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this House tomorrow and ask: did we deliver on the country's vote to leave the European Union?

"Did we safeguard our economy, our security and our Union? Or did we let the British people down?" she said.

Later, addressing a meeting of Conservative MPs, Mrs May said they had to "keep Jeremy Corbyn as far away from No 10 as possible".

Following her presentation, which was greeted with the traditional banging of desks, some MPs said they detected some movement towards her position.

But with some observers at Westminster predicting she could lose by more than 200 votes, it appeared unlikely to be enough to affect the final outcome.

Earlier, the rebels - including MPs from both the pro-Leave and pro-Remain wings of the party - were joined by assistant whip Gareth Johnson, who announced he was quitting to vote against the deal.

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn told a meeting of Labour MPs he was ready to trigger a vote of no confidence in the Government if it was defeated in an attempt to force a general election.

"Don't be concerned, it's coming soon," he said.

Speaking in Leave supporting Stoke-on-Trent, the Prime Minister warned MPs would be behaving with the "height of recklessness" if they now rejected the Withdrawal Agreement.

"The only ways to guarantee we do not leave without a deal are: to abandon Brexit, betraying the vote of the British people; or to leave with a deal, and the only deal on the table is the one MPs will vote on tomorrow night," Mrs May said.

"'You can take no-deal off the table by voting for that deal.

"And if no-deal is as bad as you believe it is, it would be the height of recklessness to do anything else."

She was speaking as Conservative former ministers Nick Boles, Sir Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan put forward a plan to give Parliament control over the Brexit process if Mrs May loses Tuesday's vote.

Their EU Withdrawal Number 2 Bill would give the Government three weeks to seek a compromise that can get through the Commons and allow the UK to leave the EU on March 29 as planned.

If that failed, the Liaison Committee - made up of senior backbenchers who chair Commons committees - would be given the job of coming up with its own compromise deal, which the Government would be legally required to implement if approved by MPs.

Belfast Telegraph


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