UK: Back my deal or risk more division, May to tell MPs

Rejecting the Brexit deal will be risky and lead to “division and uncertainty”, Prime Minister Theresa May will say to MPs who oppose her plan.

Her Commons speech comes after the 27 other EU leaders approved the terms of the UK’s exit at a summit on Sunday.

Mrs May now has to persuade politicians in the UK Parliament to back the deal.

But cabinet ministers admit she faces an uphill struggle, with Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, the DUP and many Tory MPs set to vote against it.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party has said it will review its parliamentary pact with the Conservatives – which props up Mrs May’s government – if the deal is approved by MPs.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said his party will oppose the deal, calling it “the worst of all worlds”.

The prime minister has pledged to put her “heart and soul” into a two-week push to convince MPs to back the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and its future relations with the bloc.

Parliament will decide whether to accept or reject the package next month, in a vote which is likely to be on 12 December.

Her campaign – which saw her appeal to the public in a “letter to the nation” at the weekend – could also include a TV debate with Mr Corbyn, the Daily Telegraphhas reported.

The newspaper said Mrs May – who refused to take part in a head-to-head debate with the Labour leader before the 2017 general election – will challenge Mr Corbyn. Labour says he would “relish” a debate.

In her Commons statement on Monday, expected to begin at about 15:30 GMT, Mrs May will say that backing the deal would bring an end to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

“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,” she will say.

She will tell MPs to choose whether they want to back the deal and “move on to building a brighter future of opportunity” or reject it and “go back to square one”.

Mrs May’s Tory critics include Brexiteer MPs David Davis, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, as well as Remainers Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve and Jo Johnson

The prime minister, who will chair a meeting of her cabinet on Monday morning, will say she is “absolutely” sure there is no better deal on offer.

Her fellow EU leaders made it “very clear” there would be no further negotiations if the deal is rejected, she is expected to add.

On Sunday, Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, said anyone in Britain who thought the EU might offer better terms would be “disappointed” because this was the “only” deal.

But critics dispute that argument, saying the PM has capitulated on key issues and the EU would be willing to give ground to avoid a no-deal exit.

They are especially unhappy with deal around the issue of the Irish backstop – described as an insurance policy by Mrs May – which aims to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event the UK cannot secure a future trade deal with the EU.

The plan involves a temporary single customs territory, effectively keeping the whole of the UK in the EU customs union until both the EU and UK agree that it is no longer necessary. It would also see Northern Ireland staying aligned to some rules of the EU single market if another solution cannot be found by the end of the transition period in December 2020.

Opponents fear these proposals mean the UK would continue to follow EU rules for an indefinite time without having any say over them. The DUP accuse her of breaking her promise to them that Northern Ireland would never be treated any differently from the rest of the UK.

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