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Theresa May warns opponents of ‘uncharted territory’ if MPs reject her Brexit deal

The Prime Minister has hit out at Brexiteers and Remainers who have vowed to vote against her Withdrawal Agreement. Credit: PA

Theresa May has warned the UK will be in “uncharted territory” if MPs do not back her Brexit plan.

The Prime Minister, who is still seeking further guarantees from Brussels in an effort to win over critics ahead of the vote expected on January 15, warned Brexiteers they risked derailing the UK’s departure from the European Union if they did not back her deal.

And she again rejected calls for a second referendum, saying it would be disrespectful to people who voted for Brexit in 2016.

As MPs prepare to return to Westminster with the crunch Commons vote looming on the Withdrawal Agreement thrashed out with Brussels, the Prime Minister said no alternative plan was able to respect the 2016 referendum result, protect jobs and provide certainty to citizens and businesses.

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Appearing on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show, Mrs May promised further measures specific to Northern Ireland and a greater role for Parliament, and said “we are still working on” getting extra assurances from Brussels as part of her drive to secure support for the deal.

She repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether she would keep putting the deal back to MPs if it gets rejected, instead saying: “If the deal is not voted on, this vote that is coming up, then actually we are going to be in uncharted territory.

“I don’t think anybody can say exactly what will happen in terms of the reaction we will see in Parliament.”

Meanwhile, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “confident” that medicine supplies would be “unhindered” in a no-deal scenario – as long as the pharmaceutical industry took action.

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Asked if he could guarantee that no one would die as a result of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Hancock told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I’m confident that we will have the unhindered supply of medicines so long as the plans that we have in place are properly enacted.”

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, also used a Sunday newspaper article to warned critics from both sides of the Brexit divide that they risked damaging the economy and trust in democracy by opposing her plan.

Addressing opponents on both the Remain and Brexiteer wings of the Commons, she said: “There are some in Parliament who, despite voting in favour of holding the referendum, voting in favour of triggering Article 50 and standing on manifestos committed to delivering Brexit, now want to stop us leaving by holding another referendum.

“Others across the House of Commons are so focused on their particular vision of Brexit that they risk making a perfect ideal the enemy of a good deal.

How events may transpire after the House of Commons votes on the Withdrawal Agreement. Credit: PA Graphics

“Both groups are motivated by what they think is best for the country, but both must realise the risks they are running with our democracy and the livelihoods of our constituents.”

The Prime Minister said that the British “genius for pragmatism” had always found a way forward which commands consensus at “moments of profound challenge” such as this.

In a Mail on Sunday article she said Labour’s approach under Jeremy Corbyn had been based on a “cynical tissue of incoherence, designed to avoid difficult decisions”.

The Prime Minister was forced to postpone a vote on her plans in December after it became clear the deal would be rejected by MPs.

Theresa May criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘cynical’ approach. Credit: PA

With Tory rebels and her DUP allies expected to oppose it, the Prime Minister hopes to win round some Labour MPs alarmed at the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

“MPs of every party will face the same question when the division bell rings,” Mrs May said.

“It is a question of profound significance for our democracy and for our constituents.

“The only way to both honour the result of the referendum and protect jobs and security is by backing the deal that is on the table.”

But former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood said a no-deal Brexit “will work just fine” despite the “idiotic” warnings about potential shortages of food and medicines.

On the other side of the Tory divide, pro-EU veteran Ken Clarke said Mrs May’s deal – which he would be prepared to support – is “dying”, and he would be “amazed” if the mood of MPs had changed over the Christmas break.

Instead, he called for Brexit to be postponed until a way forward can be found.

Brexit is now less than 12 weeks away and a deal has not yet been negotiated. Credit: PA

MPs will resume debate on the Brexit deal on Wednesday ahead of a vote the following week.

Mrs May is said to be considering offering MPs further safeguards about the Irish backstop – the measure aimed at preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland which critics fear could leave the UK indefinitely bound into a customs union with the EU and prevent future trade deals with countries around the world.

But former Brexit minister Steve Baker rejected the proposals, saying they were a “tedious and desperate attempt to rescue an unsalvageable deal”.

The Daily Mail reported the PM is working on a “double lock” to put a time limit on the backstop.

Officials are reportedly drawing up a possible Commons amendment to the Brexit vote which would give Parliament the right to serve notice to the EU of an intention to quit the backstop after 12 months if Brussels fails to agree a trade deal with the UK that would resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, Mrs May is also seeking a written guarantee from the EU that a trade deal can be agreed within 12 months of the transition period ending.