IN A House of Commons statement yesterday PM May insisted that her deal is the best that she can get and that even if she is defeated in the vote, the UK would be leaving the EU on March 29.
May published two letters from EU leaders offering ‘new assurances’ that they would not hold the UK in the backstop indefinitely. However, the ‘assurances are not legally binding and the text of the deal concerning the backstop and its implecations remain unchanged.
MPs are furious that May’s deal not only allows the EU to force the UK to remain in the backstop arrangement indefinitely, it also means that it is only the EU which has the power to release the UK – if, when or ever it chooses. Making her case in Parliament May insisted: ‘Even if the government is defeated again, the UK will still be leaving the EU on March 29th. The EU will not want this backstop to come into force, and the letters published today make it clear that if it did come into force the EU will do all they can to bring it to an end as soon as possible.’
She conceded: ‘Nevertheless, I fully understand that the new assurances still would not go as far as some would like. ‘I know that some members wanted to see changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, a unilateral exit mechanism for the backstop, an end date to the backstop or to reject the backstop altogether.’
‘But’ she added, ‘the simple truth is this: the EU was not prepared to agree to this, and rejecting the backstop altogether means no deal.’ Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘In December the government shamefully pulled the meaningful vote on her deal, with the promise that the Prime Minister would secure legal assurances from the EU that the backstop is temporary.
‘It must now be clear to all members across this House, the Prime Minister has completely and utterly failed to do that. ‘… If this deal is rejected, and I hope it is, the blame will lie at the feet of this Prime Minister. ‘There is a deal that could command support in the House, which would include a new and comprehensive customs union and a strong single market relationship, access to the single market, and a guarantee to keep pace with European Union rights and standards.’
He concluded: ‘If the Prime Minister’s deal is rejected tomorrow it is time for a general election, it is time for a new government.’ May replied: ‘He calls, as he does regularly, for a general election. I think we saw yesterday that the right honourable gentleman isn’t thinking about the national interest.
‘Because yesterday, when asked whether, if, there was a general election, he would actively campaign to leave the European Union, he refused to answer the question five times.’
Earlier yesterday PM May spoke at a pottery factory in Stoke-on-Trent – an area which overwhelmingly voted Leave. Threatening MPs with the prospect of no Brexit if they do not vote for her deal, she said: ‘Settle the question of our withdrawal and we can move on to forging our new relationship, back the deal on Tuesday and that work can start on Wednesday. ‘Fail and we face the risk of leaving without a deal, or even the risk of not leaving at all.’
She continued: ‘There are some in Westminster who would wish to delay, or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to do so. ‘I ask them to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy.
‘The House of Commons did not say to the people of Scotland or Wales that, despite voting in favour of the devolved legislature, Parliament knew better and would overrule them or force them to vote again. ‘What if we found ourselves in a situation where Parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a Remain vote ‘People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.’
She said: ‘I have argued that the consequences of Parliament rejecting the deal would be grave uncertainty, potentially leading to one of two outcomes: ‘Either a no deal Brexit that would create turbulence for our economy, create barriers to security cooperation and disrupt people’s daily lives. ‘Or the risk of no Brexit at all … These alternatives both remain in play if the deal is rejected.’ ‘… It is now my judgement that the more likely outcome is a paralysis of Parliament which risks there being no Brexit.’