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Cabinet rebels tell May to POSTPONE her Brexit vote

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May vows she WILL push ahead with crunch vote on Brexit deal despite Cabinet ministers urging her to call it off to avoid catastrophic defeat - as DUP vows to bring down government even if she wins

  • Ministers are desperately searching for a way to sweeten the PM's Brexit deal 
  • At least three Cabinet ministers are believed to have urged the PM to postpone 
  • Parliament is set to vote on Theresa May's controversial Brexit deal next week  
  • She is considering a range of deal sweeteners, mostly concerning the 'backstop' 

By James Tapsfield, Political Editor, For Mailonline and Jason Groves and Daniel Martin for the Daily Mail and Charlie Moore For Mailonline

Published: 17:34 EST, 5 December 2018 | Updated: 03:20 EST, 6 December 2018

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Theresa May today vowed to push ahead with the crunch vote on her Brexit deal despite Cabinet ministers urging her to delay it to avoid a catastrophic defeat.

The Prime Minister defied hardening opposition from Tory rebels and the DUP to make another impassioned plea for MPs to get on board with her plan.

She warned there is no other option on the table, and killing her proposal off would either end up with the UK crashing out of the EU - or Brexit not happening at all. 

'It's a good deal,' she said in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. 

Asked what her 'Plan B' is for what happens after an almost inevitable disaster in the Commons on Tuesday, she said: 'That question is for those who want to oppose this deal.' 

Mrs May made clear that the Withdrawal Agreement she has thrashed out with Brussels is effectively locked in - but insisted she is 'listening' to concerns from MPs. 

The appeal came amid claims the government is considering a range of measures to make the Irish 'backstop' more palatable to her mutinous backbenchers.

Proposals include placing a parliamentary 'lock' on the backstop, which would give MPs the final say over whether to enter an arrangement which critics fear could keep the UK trapped in the customs union indefinitely. 

At least three ministers have appealed directly to Prime Minister Theresa May in an attempt to postpone next week's Brexit deal vote in Parliament
At least three ministers have appealed directly to Prime Minister Theresa May in an attempt to postpone next week's Brexit deal vote in Parliament

At least three ministers have appealed directly to Prime Minister Theresa May in an attempt to postpone next week's Brexit deal vote in Parliament

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends  a funeral service for former US president George H. W. Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends  a funeral service for former US president George H. W. Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a funeral service for former US president George H. W. Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC

French President Emmanuel Macron (centre) waves to citizens as he assesses the damages of the 'Yellow Vests' protest in Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron (centre) waves to citizens as he assesses the damages of the 'Yellow Vests' protest in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron (centre) waves to citizens as he assesses the damages of the 'Yellow Vests' protest in Paris

Downing Street is also considering a new law that would guarantee there could be no divergence of rules between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK during any backstop period.

The measures could be included in a Government amendment to Tuesday's Commons vote on Mrs May's deal.

But some senior Tories believe she is running out of time to persuade Eurosceptic Tories and Democratic Unionists ahead of the vote.

Mrs May will head to Brussels on December 13, two days after the crunch Commons vote.

If she loses the vote, EU leaders would offer her the chance to extend the Article 50 process to avoid a no-deal Brexit, reported The Telegraph. But Downing Street has ruled this out.

It comes as:

  • Ministers published the Attorney General's full legal advice on Mrs May's deal after losing a dramatic Commons vote on Tuesday in which the Government was found to be in 'contempt of Parliament';
  • Mrs May's partners in the DUP accused her of 'bad faith' and vowed to vote against the deal after the legal advice warned there would need to be new checks on some goods travelling from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK;
  • Brexiteers claimed the DUP's continued support for the Government was now conditional on the Brexit deal being defeated;
  • Downing Street insisted Mrs May would not seek to delay the UK's departure from the EU even if her deal is defeated next week, saying: 'She has been very clear we are not extending Article 50';
  • International Trade Secretary Liam Fox warned MPs that Remainers in Parliament 'may try to steal Brexit from the British people';
  • Chancellor Philip Hammond warned against leaving without a deal, saying it would take at least two years to prepare the port of Dover.

At least three Cabinet ministers are said to have directly urged the Prime Minister to agree a short postponement.

One said: 'There are ways this can be fixed and people have started looking at them.

The ministers are attempting to sweeten the deal before presenting it to MPs, with the Tory chief whip also concerned at potentially disastrous defeat
The ministers are attempting to sweeten the deal before presenting it to MPs, with the Tory chief whip also concerned at potentially disastrous defeat

The ministers are attempting to sweeten the deal before presenting it to MPs, with the Tory chief whip also concerned at potentially disastrous defeat

'We need to be creative and we need to get the DUP back on board. It can be done, but it can't be done before next Tuesday. We need to pull the vote or we risk losing on a scale that makes the whole thing impossible to salvage.'

Another senior Tory said: 'Marching people into the valley of death next Tuesday is a mistake. There will be a monumental effort to change people's minds this weekend.

'But if that does not work then it's not a bad idea to allow a little more time for tempers to cool if we want to influence people.'

Tory chief whip Julian Smith is also said to be concerned about the idea of pressing ahead with a vote if it seems certain the Government will be heavily defeated.

But a senior Tory source indicated Mrs May was not currently minded to delay, adding: 'Delaying things might even make it worse.'

Mrs May has spent much of the last few days lobbying small groups of Tory MPs to back her deal.

More than 100 MPs have voiced doubts about it, mostly focused on the backstop.

The plan is designed to ensure there is no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland if trade talks stall.

Discussing the upcoming crunch vote, a senior Tory said: 'There will be a monumental effort to change people’s minds this weekend'
Discussing the upcoming crunch vote, a senior Tory said: 'There will be a monumental effort to change people’s minds this weekend'

Discussing the upcoming crunch vote, a senior Tory said: 'There will be a monumental effort to change people's minds this weekend'

But it would leave the whole UK in the customs union. And the Government's legal advice is that there would be no unilateral way out.

One idea being considered is to give MPs a vote on whether to allow the process to go ahead if talks fail to produce a workable alternative.

John Baron, a Tory Eurosceptic pushing for a unilateral exit mechanism, yesterday said the plan did not go far enough, adding: 'A parliamentary lock would bind us but would not bind the EU. I could not support it.'

Downing Street refused to say whether the idea would be taken up, but confirmed Mrs May was in 'listening mode'.

But No 10 ruled out the Prime Minister asking the EU to reopen the Brexit deal when she travels to Brussels next week, warning that could make things 'worse'.

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