BREXIT LAST CHANCE: May warns MPs have three days to back deal or REMAIN under EU RULE

The Prime Minister’s plea came as senior Brexiteers began to switch their support to her deal amid suggestions up to 30 Labour MPs could back it, along with the DUP. However, a hardcore group of Tory Brexiteer MPs have vowed to hold out against supporting the proposal in the hope Britain will leave with no deal on March 29. MPs voted on Thursday to ask the EU to push the date of Brexit back from the end of March to June 30 if the Commons approves a deal by Wednesday – allowing time for legislation to go through.

If it fails Government sources have said they will be forced to seek a long extension and the EU will demand the UK would have to stay under Brussels rule in the customs union and single market.

This so-called Norway option means Britain would have to accept most of Brussels rules with no say over their formulation along with continued free movement. Britain would also be unable to strike free trade agreements with the rest of the world.

The EU too is expected to demand a second referendum as a condition of a long extension.

With the outcome on a knife edge, Government sources say the third meaningful vote will come on Tuesday or Wednesday ahead of the European Council summit on Thursday.

But the vote will only be brought forward if the government thinks it will win.

A close ally of Mrs May said: “Brexiteers need to understand it is now or never. We either have Brexit through the deal or we have a long extension and end up with something that is not Brexit – probably a customs union, the single market and free movement.”

Theresa May said that negotiating a new deal would mean a longer extension, “almost certainly requiring the United Kingdom to participate in the European Parliament elections in May”.

She added: “The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears thinking about. There could be no more potent symbol of Parliament’s collective political failure.”

It was also noted that the Office of Budget Responsibility report last week showed that remaining in the European Union over the next five years would cost Britain £66.1billion under current terms – which dwarfs the exit bill of £39billion.

Faced with a Remainer parliament determined to kill off Brexit, which last week decisively rejected no deal, it was understood last night that Brexiteers are planning to switch their vote to back the deal.

There were reports that Jacob Rees-Mogg is expected to support it while “Margaret Thatcher’s economic guru” Professor Patrick Minford, seen as the economic brains behind the no-deal argument, also publicly backed the deal.

Professor Minford said: “The legal advice is one thing but those who argue against the deal have not done the risk analysis which is at the heart of applied economics.

“The risk of being trapped by the deal is actually very small, largely because it is not in the EU’s interests and also because it is an international agreement but there is no international police force to enforce international law.

“However, the risk of no Brexit if the deal fails is high because we have a large majority for Remain in Parliament as the votes last week showed.”

Darren Grimes, the Vote Leave campaigner who became known as the Brexit martyr after he was controversially punished by the Electoral Commission, also called on pro-Brexit MPs to vote with Mrs May. Mr Grimes said: “It pains me to say it, but I think the honest truth is that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is now the best Brexit we’re going to get.”

Last night Michael Howard, the Eurosceptic former leader, said “with a heavy heart” he would recommend MPs back the deal. The peer has previously spoken out against it.

Meanwhile, there were reports that ongoing talks with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will see its 10 MPs switch to backing the deal.

And senior government sources said they are hopeful that 20 to 30 Labour MPs will back it if it looks like winning.

But a large number of prominent Tory Brexiteers have made it clear they cannot support the PM.

Former cabinet minister Owen Paterson said: “We will fight this to the very end.

“The legal default is that we leave on March 29 and all we have to do is hold out until then and fight this to the end.”

North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: “Obviously colleagues can switch if they want to but I am pretty sure we have the numbers to stop the deal.”

Former Brexit minister David Jones said: “The trouble with this deal is that nothing will have changed and it will still be a trap which we cannot get out of, so we cannot support it.”

Fury over the “Remainer Parliament betrayal” has also brought about a massive backlash in the Conservative Party.

The Sunday Express understands that deselection proceedings have begun against 50 Remainer Tory MPs.

One of them, Grantham & Stamford MP Nick Boles, yesterday quit his association and announced he would not be the candidate there again.

Meanwhile, 34 past and present Conservative association chairs have written to Mrs May expressing their “absolute state of despair” at what they called the betrayal of Brexit and demanding she stands down.

They wrote to the Prime Minister: “If your conscience cannot allow you to change course and deliver the will of the people, as mandated to you, we would urge you do the right thing for the country and stand down to make way for a leader who believes in Brexit and is strong enough to deliver it.”