Theresa launches last-ditch effort to save Brexit with third and FINAL Commons vote on her deal
THERESA May will force her Brexit deal to a final knife edge Commons vote tomorrow in a desperate do or die bid to save it.
After four months of chaotic deadlock, MPs will give the thumbs up or down to the PM’s divorce agreement with the EU at 2.30pm.
Senior Government sources insisted rebel numbers have been slashed, and the margin is now “very, very tight”. But late last night Chief Whip Julian Smith was still unable to guarantee the Government has the votes to pass it.
That’s despite Mrs May already dramatically giving in to Brexiteers’ demands to promise to quit in the summer.
Cabinet ministers last night fretted that a general election was the most likely outcome if it falls for the THIRD time today – chosen as the symbolic date of our original exit day, with a special sitting of Parliament.
But No10 aides said the PM is taking the high risk move in a bid to try to flush out wavering DUP, hardline Tory Brexiteer and Labour MPs to finally back it.
A Downing Street source said: “The PM thinks it’s a case of it not now, then never. People have to decide, and the only way to do that is forcing the question on them. It’s s*** or get off the potty time.”
Under Mrs May’s deal with the EU last week, Britain also only has until 11pm tonight to pass the Withdrawal Agreement to qualify for a Brexit extension until May 22.
If the Government fails to do that, we leave on April 12 in two weeks time without a deal.
Mrs May is expected to issue one final plea to MPs when she closes today’s debate before the 2.30pm vote – making it the most important speech of her life.
The Sun can also reveal that Cabinet ministers have been studying an emergency fall back plan to make one final attempt at passing the deal next week if the vote falls today.
Lawyers say Mrs May could get Parliament’s green light for it if can introduce and pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – which enshrines the deal in British law.
But No10 legal experts have advised the move would be very high risk, as the EU may attach huge strings to any new extension that Britain would have to beg for.
Last night a survey by The Sun revealed Mrs May will still fall short of winning, and by a double figure margin.
A total of 21 of the 75 Tory rebels said they remained opposed to the deal. But Tory whips still think they can squeeze the total number of anti-deal rebels down to 16 – four Remainers and 12 Brexiteers.
And hopes the PM would win over more, crucial, Labour support tumbled last night as just one more of Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs said he would switch to back her.
Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, told The Sun today is the “final D-Day”. “I don’t want a No Deal exit and the Prime Minister’s deal is the only alternative”.
The DUP’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds last night insisted his 10 MPs would are very likely to vote against the deal today, bar any last minute offer from No10 to change the backstop.
Mr Dodds said: “Things change by the hour in here, but I’m not expecting any rabbits out of the hat here. But you never know what happens in here”.
A Cabinet minister warned the DUP last night that Ulster faces reunification with Ireland if the party goes ahead with its threat to vote down the deal.
As Tories’ patience with the DUP snapped, the senior Government figure told The Sun: “If it’s no deal, there’ll be a border poll and Northern Ireland will disappear.
“If there’s a general election and Corbyn wins, the same. It’s time they woke up and smelt the coffee. They’re facing an existential threat today.”
I encourage all MPs to support it and ensure that we leave the EU on the 22nd May
The ERG also meet a final time tomorrow, with Government whips hopeful they can squeeze the diehard Brexiteers down to 12.
ERG leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told friends last night he’d would be “very surprised if Diehard Tory Brexiteers continued to switch, with senior backbencher Crispin Blunt emerging as the latest to declare his support for the deal – despite accusing Mrs May on Monday of “the most shameful surrender by a British leader since Singapore in 1942”.
Other diehard Tories were still holding out against the deal, dubbed by Brexiteer Tory MP Steve Double as “a turd of a deal, but the best turd we’ve got”.
The most prominent was former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who again called on Mrs May to “go back to the EU and explain there’s still time to provide for a legally binding exit from the backstop”.
Confirming the do or die vote at 5pm last night, Leader of Commons Andrea Leadsom told MPs: “As I set out to the House today, the European Union will only agree an extension until 22 May if the Withdrawal Agreement is approved this week.
“Tomorrow’s motion gives Parliament the opportunity to secure that extension. I encourage all MPs to support it and ensure that we leave the EU on the 22nd May, giving people and businesses the certainty they need.”
To get past Speaker Bercow’s block on putting the same question to the Commons twice, Mrs May has had to leave out of today’s vote the political declaration on the UK’s future relationship agreed with the EU.
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Attorney General Geofrey Cox met the Speaker three times yesterday in a bid to persuade him to grant the vote, at 8.30am, 2.30pm and finally at 4pm.
The rough plan for the future relationship agreed with the EU willstill have to be agreed by MPs. But that sparked uproar from Labour, who declared it will again vote against the deal for the third time.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would not accept any attempt to separate the Withdrawal Agreement from the Political Declaration, which he warned would result in “the blindest of blindfold Brexits”.
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