Prime Minister Theresa May today asked Britain’s MPs to “stand together as democrats and patriots” to back her Brexit deal.
Writing in the Telegraph, May lent heavily on the prospect that delays to Brexit could force Britain to vote in May’s European Parliament election as a reason why the House of Commons must support her deal.
After parliament last week rejected leaving the EU without a deal and declined to support a second public vote on Brexit, May is undertaking a last-ditch push to convince MPs to back her Brexit deal at the third time of asking, in a vote this week.
She said her deal “is the only way through the current impasse.”
“If Parliament can find a way to back the Brexit deal before European Council [which meets Thursday], the UK will leave the EU this spring, without having to take part in the European elections, and we can get on with building our future relationship with the EU,” she wrote. “If it cannot, we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever.”
If the U.K. parliament backs her deal this week May said she would seek “a short technical extension to pass the necessary legislation.”
“The alternative if Parliament cannot agree the deal by that time is much worse,” she wrote. Failure to vote through her deal would likely “mean a much longer extension” to Brexit beyond March 29, May said, “almost certainly requiring the United Kingdom to participate in the European Parliament elections in May.”
“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,” May said.
The prime minister acknowledged she still lacks the support she needs from her own Conservative Party, as well as from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, to get her deal through parliament.
She asked MPs to make “the honourable compromises necessary to heal division and move forward.”
Esther McVey, who previously quit May’s Cabinet to vote against the prime minister’s deal, told Sky News on Sunday that she and other Brexiteer would now “be forced, holding our nose,” to vote it through.
“The rules have all changed,” she said. “I still believe Theresa May’s deal is a bad deal, but after the votes in the house last week … the choice before us is this deal or no Brexit whatsoever.” However, she added support from other groups such as Labour would be required.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News on Sunday that his party would not support May’s deal, noting it had been rejected twice by parliament.
“This is ridiculous. This thing has been defeated comprehensively. And she has got to recognize that we’ve got to do something different,” he said.
National ambassadors were told Friday that Brexit can’t be delayed beyond July 1 unless Britain takes part in the European election, according to a document prepared by EU officials and seen by POLITICO.
Writing in the Telegraph, May said that, if her deal cannot get support, that could require negotiators to “go back to square one and negotiate a new deal.”
The Observer reported that EU officials are considering how to limit the options for any changes in Britain’s political leadership to reopen Brexit talks, amid concerns there is little hope of May getting her deal through parliament.
It quoted European Commission Secretary-General Martin Selmayr as telling a Friday meeting: “It must be clear that the starting point is not a renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement.”