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MPs round up on Theresa May’s deal ahead of meaningful vote

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Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa
May.

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  • Theresa May has nine days to avoid huge parliamentary
    defeat on her Brexit deal.
  • Leaked legal advice on the Irish backstop is set to
    outrage pro-Brexit MPs ahead of the meaningful vote.
  • The advice, which May has refused to publish in full,
    reportedly confirms that the UK could be stuck with EU customs
    rules for years after Brexit.
  • Pro-EU Conservative MPs are leading growing calls for
    another referendum.
  • The prime minister doubled down on her deal when
    quizzed by journalists in Argentina on Saturday.

 

LONDON — Theresa May faces a bigger than expected defeat on her
Brexit deal with the potential to threaten her leadership, with
the number of MPs set to vote for her deal in nine days time
looking smaller by the day.

The prime minister has spent the last week touring the United
Kingdom in an attempt to get the British public behind her Brexit
Withdrawal Agreement and encourage them to tell their MPs to vote
for it on Tuesday, December 11.

However, rather than warm to the deal, a growing number MPs from
all sides are lining up to lambast it. ConservativeHome estimated on
Friday
that she could lose the “meaningful vote” by a margin
of up to 180 MPs.

Pro-Brexit MPs, already irked by the divorce package, are set to
be outraged again this week, this time by leaked legal advice
which confirms that the UK could be trapped in a customs union
with the EU indefinitely after Brexit.

Secret legal advice given to May’s government and leaked to The Times says that
under the agreed backstop proposal for avoiding a hard Irish
border, the UK would be wedded to EU customs rules for years
after Brexit, with years of further negotiation needed before it
has a chance of breaking away.

In this scenario — which will come into effect if a sufficient
new UK-EU trading relationship isn’t in ready by the end of the
transition period — the UK would have a reduced ability to sign
new trade deals and Northern Ireland would be in parts of the
single market, creating controversial new checks between Northern
Ireland and Great Britain.

This potential outcome is loathed by Brexiteers and the
Democratic Unionist Party which props up the government.

The prime minister has so far refused to give MPs the full legal
advice, with one source in her Cabinet telling The Times: “The
legal advice is very bad, which is why they don’t want anyone to
see it.”

In the meantime, pro-EU Conservative MPs mobilising amid growing
calls for another Brexit referendum.

On Friday night, Sam Gyimah quit as May’s science and
universities minister in protest against the prime minister’s
“naive” Brexit deal. The UK would be “worse off, transformed from
rule makers into rule takers,” he said.

Business Insider revealed that
Gyimah will be the next Tory MP to officially back the People’s
Vote campaign for another referendum, joining Jo Johnson who also
quit government to back the campaign this month.

The government is braced for more pro-EU MPs to quit, the Mail On Sunday reports,
with Business Secretary Greg Clark, Lord Chancellor David Gauke
and minister Margot James spotted with Gyimah and Johnson this
week.

James has since denied she is planning to resign but senior
People’s Vote campaigners are confident of signing up more
Conservative MPs as the March 2019 deadline for leaving the
European Union approaches.

May dodged questions about Gyimah’s resignation when quizzed by
journalists in Argentina on Saturday.

“There is a lot more for me still to do, not least delivering on
Brexit and being the prime minster that does take the United
Kingdom out of the European Union,” she told reporters at the G20
summit
, adding that she’d be “talking with members of
parliament obviously and explaining to them why this is a good
deal for the UK.”

MPs will begin a five-day debate on May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday
before voting on it the following week.

Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain’s departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider’s political reporters. Join here.

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