Anna Soubry: Senior Tory warns Theresa May will lose final Brexit vote unless she changes course

'One of the big messages was that, if we don’t take a withdrawal agreement, there are other options'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 11 February 2018 11:19
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Anna Soubry: There could be a majority to vote down Brexit deal in autumn

Rebel Tory Anna Soubry has warned Theresa May she is on course to lose the crucial Commons vote on the final Brexit deal unless she changes course.

The former minister said she and pro-EU Labour MPs are “absolutely united” in fighting a hard Brexit, with a growing number of Conservatives ready to join them.

Asked if there would be a majority to vote down the deal this autumn, Ms Soubry said: “If she is not careful – yes. There is a real shift.”

She added: “If this Government does not get this right, it will end up in a position whereby the majority of Members of Parliament – putting their constituents first – will find themselves unable to vote for a withdrawal agreement.”

Ms Soubry said her talks in Brussels had convinced her, and other pro-EU MPs, that the EU was ready to let Britain think again, if Parliament rejected the Prime Minister’s exit terms.

“One of the big messages was that, if we don’t take a withdrawal agreement, there are other options,” Ms Soubry told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Those options included either staying in the EU or agreeing to the “Norway model”, under which the UK would stay in the single market – currently ruled out by the Government.

And, sitting alongside pro-EU Labour MP Chuka Umunna, Ms Soubry said: “This is bigger than anything. This is the big issue on which we are absolutely united.”

Labour is keeping its options open for the vote on the final deal, although it has suggested it will have to deliver the “exact same benefits” as EU membership – as David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, once promised.

But Mr Umunna said it was unthinkable that Jeremy Corbyn – who was “open minded” – would whip his MPs to vote for a hard Brexit deal.

“There is no majority for us in the House of Commons for us to simply jump off the cliff,” he said. “I cannot conceive of circumstances where Labour MPs are marshalled to go through the lobby to vote against us staying in the single market and customs union with the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.”

Both Ms Soubry and Mr Umunna dismissed Mrs May’s threat to crash out of the EU with no deal, in March next year, if the agreement she strikes is rejected at Westminster.

The “meaningful vote”, secured by MPs before Christmas, will prevent the regulations to trigger Brexit being enacted without parliamentary approval.

Ms Soubry is the only Conservative MP to publicly support a further referendum on the deal, as favoured by the Liberal Democrats and many Labour MPs. Asked if Brexit would definitely go ahead, she said: “I genuinely don’t know what is going to happen. I tell you who might stop it – the people of this country.”

Meanwhile, Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, admitted the Prime Minister had yet to make her Brexit plans clear.

Mrs May is now poised to make her third big speech on EU withdrawal by the start of next month, after an “away day” for warring cabinet ministers at Chequers, her country retreat.

Ms Mordaunt said the speech would provide answers, admitting: “The public want some vision and some meat on the bones.” The Government needed to give business leaders, and other organisations, the “certainty they are looking for”, she acknowledged.

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