Theresa May begged Brexiteer Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party to take a “second look” at her agreement
Francis Elliott, Political Editor | Oliver Wright, Policy Editor | Sam Coates | Henry Zeffman. January 15 2019, 12:01am.
MPs expected to reject EU withdrawal agreement despite prime minister’s last-minute plea
Theresa May warned Tory rebels last night that they will risk a Jeremy Corbyn government if they vote against her Brexit deal amid fears of the heaviest defeat suffered by a government in modern politics.
Downing Street is braced for a no-confidence vote as soon as tomorrow as Mr Corbyn tries to force an election he claims would break the Brexit logjam.
The prime minister begged Brexiteer Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party to take a “second look” at her agreement in the light of further European Union assurances over the Irish backstop.
However, only half the Conservative parliamentary party turned up to hear her eve-of-vote pitch in which she urged them to unite around two tasks: achieving Brexit and keeping the Labour leader out of Downing Street. The best way to secure those aims, she said, was to vote for her deal.
In a quietly damning verdict of her attempt to secure converts to her cause, one MP present — who is voting for the deal — said that it was a “competent but not transformative” performance. They said the prime minister “mostly rehearsed the arguments she has been rehearsing for months”.
A Brexit-supporting MP who left the Westminster meeting early said that Mrs May’s appeal had not changed his mind over how to vote.
The DUP, the prime minister’s parliamentary ally, also delivered a withering rejection of her entreaties. Nigel Dodds, the deputy leader, said that letters from Brussels attempting to offer support on the backstop increased the party’s concerns.
The Conservatives’ hardline Brexit faction has plotted to ensure that Mrs May’s deal goes down to the heaviest possible defeat today. The scale of a loss that No 10 privately concedes is inevitable will depend on which amendments John Bercow, the Speaker, selects. The first votes are expected after 7pm.