- Video report by ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston
Theresa May is to face hostile MPs in the House of Commons as she seeks to persuade them to back her latest Brexit deal.
The Prime Minister's new 10-point compromise plan has been dismissed by every group she was attempting to woo, including Labour, the DUP and Tory Brexiteers, one of who labelled it “dead on arrival”.
The last-ditch attempt to shore up support included offering a vote on whether to hold a second referendum, as well as a choice over the UK’s future customs arrangements.
While Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) offers compromises, it would not be reopened and renegotiated with the European Union.
Although the Prime Minister's compromises are a bid to appeal to Remainer MPs, some 20 Conservatives, who held their noses to back her deal last time, have announced they cannot vote for the latest version – including leadership frontrunners Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab.
Mr Johnson tweeted: “With great reluctance I backed MV3. Now we are being asked to vote for a customs union and a second referendum.
“The Bill is directly against our manifesto – and I will not vote for it. We can and must do better – and deliver what the people voted for.”
While Mr Raab said he could not "support legislation that would be the vehicle for a second referendum or Customs Union.
"Either option would frustrate rather than deliver Brexit - and break our clear manifesto promises."
Brexiteer Cabinet ministers are understood to be trying to persuade Mrs May to ditch the fourth attempt to pass her deal, warning the vote will end in yet another humiliating defeat.
And the beleaguered Prime Minister faces a fresh bid to boot her out of Downing Street from the 1922 backbenchers’ committee, which meets later Wednesday.
While Mrs May has said she will step down once the first phase or Brexit is completed and her deal is passed, should the WAB be defeated by MPs when they vote on it during the week beginning June 3, the Prime Minister could be forced out sooner.
Tory MP Nigel Evans, who sits on the 1922 executive, told the Sun: “I will be asking my colleagues on the ’22 executive tomorrow to agree to a rule change so we can hold an immediate confidence vote if Theresa is not prepared to stand down now.”
Mrs May announced her “new Brexit deal” on Tuesday after a stormy two-hour meeting with her Cabinet in Downing Street, in which some ministers were said to be on the brink of resignation.
She said there was “one last chance” for MPs to deliver on the result of the 2016 referendum and take the UK out of the European Union, and announced a new Bill would be published in the next few days.
As well as a vote on a second referendum, MPs will also be offered a choice over the UK’s future customs arrangements after talks with Labour collapsed, in part because of the failure to agree on the issue.
They will choose between the Government’s existing proposal, which allows the UK to keep an independent trade policy but delivers some of the benefits of a customs union, or a full – but temporary – customs union with the EU which critics warn would leave the UK unable to strike trade deals with countries around the world.
In an appeal to MPs, she said that the “biggest problem with Britain today is its politics” but with the right Brexit deal “we can end this corrosive debate”.
The commitments would be guaranteed in law and include:
- A legal commitment to conclude alternative arrangements to replace the Northern Ireland backstop by December 2020, so it never needs to be used
- A commitment that, should the backstop come into force, the Government will ensure that Great Britain's border rules stay aligned with Northern Ireland's
- Negotiating objectives and final treaties for the UK's future relationship with the EU will have to be approved by MPs
- A new Workers' Rights Bill offering protections at least as favourable as those in the EU
- No change in the level of environmental protection when the UK leaves the EU
- As close to frictionless trade with the EU as is possible once the UK has left the single market but an end to free movement of people
- A commitment to align the UK with EU rules for goods and products to protect thousands of jobs dependent on just-in-time supply chains
- A commitment to allow MPs to decide on future customs arrangements with the EU
- A vote for MPs on whether the deal should be subject to a referendum
- A legal duty to secure changes to the current political declaration agreed with Brussels to reflect the new deal
Downing Street sources said it had not yet been decided whether MPs would be offered a free vote on whether to require a second referendum to “confirm” the deal.
But Mrs May left little doubt that she would oppose it, warning that delaying the Brexit process for months more – perhaps indefinitely – risked “opening the door to a nightmare future of permanently polarised politics”.
In a message to MPs she said: “Reject this deal and leaving the EU with a negotiated deal any time soon will be dead in the water.”
Mrs May has staked her political future on the deal, with the timetable for her exit from Number 10 due to be decided following the vote on the WAB.
But her hopes of success suffered early blows, with the Democratic Unionist Party, Tory Brexiteers and Labour all lining up to attack the proposals.
Critics pointed out that there was nothing in the Bill which required the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with Brussels to be reopened.
DUP parliamentary leader Nigel Dodds said: “We will examine the legislation closely when the Bill is finally published but the fundamental flaws of the draft Withdrawal Agreement treaty itself remain unchanged.
“Many of the proposals on the backstop serve as an attempt through domestic law to mitigate a bad deal, whereas the focus should be on getting a better deal.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “We will of course look seriously at the details of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill when it is published.
“But we won’t back a repackaged version of the same old deal – and it’s clear that this weak and disintegrating government is unable to deliver on its own commitments.”
Not all MPs are opposed to the deal.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove urged his colleagues to back it, saying that if they did not back it, the alternatives were either leaving with no-deal, or remaining in the UK.
In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, Chancellor Philip Hammond backed Mrs May's deal, saying it was a compromise - something he argued both sides of the Brexit divide need to do.
"If we are to have any hope of re-uniting our country and repairing our politics after the divisions of the last three years, we cannot have half the country feeling they have completely won and the other half, that they have completely lost," Mr Hammond said.
“Britain needs a Brexit that feels like a compromise, a Brexit that delights no-one, but one that everyone, or nearly everyone, can live with.”
Wednesday is also the last day of European election campaigning and Tories are bracing themselves for another electoral slaughter as traditional Conservative voters switch to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in their droves.
While Mrs May’s misery continues, Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable is enjoying the prospect of a long-awaited bounce in his party’s fortunes.
He will be campaigning in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency of Islington, north London, before travelling to Edinburgh and Cambridge, as he urges Remain voters to lend his party their votes.