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Brexit vote date on Theresa May's deal confirmed as Trump warns it favours EU

 MPs on all sides line up to attack withdrawal agreement as prime minister gets two weeks to win over sceptics

Monday 26 November 2018 09:36 GMT
Donald Trump claims May's Brexit deal favours EU and may hinder UK trade with US

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Donald Trump has said Theresa May's Brexit agreement "sounds like a great deal" for the EU, and may hinder trade between the UK and US.

The US president issued his warning hours after the prime minister faced an onslaught of criticism from hostile MPs in the Commons as she pitched her Brexit deal to them, saying that rejecting the agreement would cause division and uncertainty.

The date of the MPs’ vote on the agreement was revealed as 11 December, giving the prime minister a fortnight to avert what threatens to be a humiliating defeat at the hands of scores of Conservative rebels.

In a debate lasting nearly three hours, Ms May was forced time after time to defend her strategy as Tory grandees and opposition members alike lined up to attack aspects of the withdrawal agreement signed in Brussels at the weekend.

She was loudly barracked by MPs as she insisted that no better deal was available than the agreement and political declaration on future relations endorsed by EU leaders.

Former minister Mark Francois branded her deal a “surrender”, saying opposition from Eurosceptic Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party meant it was already “dead as a dodo”.

Former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon described the deal as “a huge gamble” that involved the UK paying a £39 billion divorce bill and giving up its votes and veto without any firm commitment on future trade relations.

But Mrs May said: “The British people want us to get on with a deal that honours the referendum and allows us to come together again as a country, whichever way we voted.

“This is that deal. A deal that delivers for the British people.”

In a sign that she aims to go over fractious MPs’ heads and appeal directly to voters for their backing, Ms May said parliamentarians had a “duty” to listen to their constituents before taking their decision in the national interest.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Commons would have “very little choice” but to reject the “botched” deal, which he described as “bad for this country”.

With 90 or more Conservative MPs indicating they could rebel in the “meaningful vote”, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay admitted the prime minister faces a “challenging” division.

No one knows what would happen if this deal doesn’t pass

Theresa May

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warned that there would be no more negotiation if MPs vote down the agreement, saying: “This is the best deal for Britain ... and this is the only deal possible, so if the House says no, we would have no deal.”

Ms May told MPs: “I can say to the House with absolute certainty that there is not a better deal available.”

She said MPs faced a choice: “We can back this deal, deliver on the vote of the referendum and move on to building a brighter future of opportunity and prosperity for all our people.

“Or this House can choose to reject this deal and go back to square one.

“Because no one knows what would happen if this deal doesn’t pass. It would open the door to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail.”

Mr Corbyn said: “The prime minister says if we reject this deal, it will take us back to square one. The truth is, under this government we have never got off square one.

“This botched deal is still a bad deal for the country and all yesterday did was mark the end of this government’s failed and miserable negotiations.”

Ms May told MPs the government had ensured that Gibraltar was covered by the withdrawal agreement and would negotiate a future relationship “for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar”.

A two-hour Cabinet meeting earlier heard an update from Mr Barclay on preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit, which are continuing despite the deal being agreed.

After the Commons debate, Downing Street chief of staff Gavin Barwell and effective deputy prime minister David Lidington invited opposition MPs to a briefing on the agreement.

But Downing Street sources said they were not aware of the prime minister seeking to speak to Labour MPs thought to be considering backing her deal.

Analysis by the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority of the impact of the deal on the UK economy is to be published on Thursday.

Ms May has started a campaign to sell her deal directly to the public, with visits to all parts of the UK planned.

Her spokesman declined to confirm or deny reports that No 10 is considering a possible television debate with Mr Corbyn, something the Labour leader has made clear he would relish.

For more on the debate, please see what was our live coverage below:

Ashley Cowburn26 November 2018 08:22
Ashley Cowburn26 November 2018 08:23
Ashley Cowburn26 November 2018 08:24

Stephen Barclay - the new Brexit secretary - has admitted it will be a "challenge" to get May's deal through parliament as scores of MPs say they will vote against it.

But he told BBC Radio 4's Today the PM has got the best agreement possible for the UK after her negotiations with Brussels.

Asked about how the government will get the deal secured by Ms May at yesterday's summit approved by the House of Commons, Mr Barclay said: "Well it's going to be a challenging vote.

"But it's now the job of all of us in Cabinet to make the case to our colleagues, to make the case to the country.

"The Prime Minister, after two years working day and night in the national interest, has secured a deal that respects the referendum result. And does so in a way that also protects jobs, that also gives security to EU citizens."

Ashley Cowburn26 November 2018 08:45

European Commission president Jean-Claude Junker has insisted the deal reach on Monday between the UK and the EU is the “best deal for Britain” and “the only possible deal”.

He told Radio 4’s Today programme that if the House of Commons rejects the deal when asked to vote in the coming weeks, “we would have no deal”.

He added: "It's not the intention of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, nor of the Parliament, to go for a second referendum. This is the deal."

Asked if the Brexit negotiation was a "punishment process" for the UK, Mr Juncker said: "I don't understand why the British people, and I like the British people for so many including historical reasons, why they are feeling that they are humiliated.

"I don't see that because numerous points of view of the British have been taken into this deal. So, this is not a humiliation for Britain."

Ashley Cowburn26 November 2018 08:48
Ashley Cowburn26 November 2018 09:03

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, has also been on the airwaves this morning – claiming that if May’s Brexit deal fails to pass the Commons she could be sent back to Brussels to negotiate better terms.

Asked if Parliament can stop the clock running out on getting an agreement and preventing such an outcome, he admitted any motion by MPs to try and do so might not be binding.

He told Radio 4's Today programme: "If you had a vast majority saying we don't authorise the government to leave with no deal, it would be very difficult for the government politically to do so.

"I accept that may not be legally binding, there would then have to be legislation before March for any government preparing for no deal and there would be plenty of opportunities to put amendments down to that to require the government to do things.

"For example, to extend Article 50. I accept that no deal is something that is going to have to involve the whole EU but I think there would be a very strong push by the majority in Parliament against no deal.

"I don't think this Prime Minister would simply plough on regardless, as she knows how dangerous no deal is."

Ashley Cowburn26 November 2018 09:13
Ashley Cowburn26 November 2018 09:19
Ashley Cowburn26 November 2018 09:42

According to Reuters, the German finance minister Olaf Scholz has said Brexit will hurt everyone involved, but added the deal sealed on Sunday at the special EU council lays the foundations for a good development. 

Ashley Cowburn26 November 2018 10:04

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