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by Liz Bates
11 December 2018
Theresa May to beg EU leaders to help save her Brexit deal

Theresa May to beg EU leaders to help save her Brexit deal

Theresa May - Image credit: Scott Heppell/PA

Theresa May will today make a last-ditch plea to EU leaders to help save her Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister will appeal directly to her German and Dutch counterparts, Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte, for further assurances that Britain will not be permanently locked into the Northern Ireland backstop after leaving the EU.

The controversial back-up plan, which would impose different trade rules on Northern Ireland, has been a focal point for growing opposition to May’s deal.

In the face of almost certain defeat, she yesterday opted to delay the meaningful vote on the agreement and will instead ask for extra concessions from EU leaders in an effort to win back vital domestic support.

But last night, EU Council president Donald Tusk dealt the Prime Minister a fresh blow when he tweeted that "we will not renegotiate the deal, including the backstop".

Instead, he said Brussels was only prepared to "facilitate UK ratification", a small concession which is unlikely to satisfy Tory Brexiteers or the DUP, who have vowed to vote down her deal.

Ireland's prime minister, Leo Varadkar, also said yesterday: "The withdrawal agreement, including the Irish backstop, is the only agreement on the table. It took over a year-and-a-half to negotiate.

"It has the support of 28 governments and it's not possible to reopen any aspect of that agreement without opening all aspects of it."

Conforming her decision to call off the meaningful vote, May told MPs: “It is clear that while there is broad support for many of the key aspects of the deal, on one issue, the Northern Ireland backstop, there remains widespread and deep concerns.

"As a result, if we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow the deal would be rejected by a significant margin.

“We will therefore defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow and not proceed to divide the House at this time.”

The decision to ditch the much-anticipated Brexit vote sparked outrage in the Commons, with MPs lining up to criticise ministers, and one Labour MP grabbing the ceremonial mace in protest.

Meanwhile, Labour has secured a three-hour emergency debate on the UK Government’s conduct, which will take place today.

Opposition leaders have also written a joint-letter to the Prime Minister accusing her of "contempt for Parliament" for unilaterally cancelling the vote without giving MPs a say.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on May as another senior Tory announced he had submitted a letter of no confidence in her.

Former minister Crispin Blunt said he had written to 1922 committee chair Graham Brady calling for the Prime Minister’s removal and urging colleagues to follow suit. 

“I want to encourage those who are thinking about it; get it done,” he said.

The number of letters submitted must reach 48 to trigger a Conservative leadership contest.

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