Theresa May has made a final speech as MPs prepare to vote tomorrow in the House of Commons on May’s Brexit Deal, following a letter send by the European Commission saying it was ‘committed’ to pushing for alternative arrangements and relations with the UK.
Speaking from Stoke, Theresa May has warned of “catastrophic harm” to politics in the UK if the country doesn’t leave the EU, and that a formal cancellation of Brexit is more likely than a no-deal scenario if May’s deal is voted down on Tuesday.
Theresa May also warned that down-voting her deal would lead to a “paralysis in Parliament” and could trigger a second EU referendum.
In the speech, the Prime Minister also welcomed assurances by Juncker and EU delegates over the impacts faced by Northern Ireland, saying that the UK had “legal force” to ensure a smooth transition under May’s Brexit Deal.
However, senior DUP members, including the deputy leader Nigel Dodds, have said the letter issued by the European Union on the Northern Ireland issue does far from reassuring politicians on the safety of the province. Speaking in response to May’s speech, Nigel Dodds stated that the letter only “bolstered our concerns”, and that the Prime Minister should now “deliver changes to the withdrawal agreement” instead of focusing on letters.
The letter sent by the EU today stated that it was committed to look at alternatives to the current customs arrangements and future relations with the UK regarding Northern Ireland and other issues around Brexit, to avoid a hard-border situation between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which would fundamentally change and potentially damage Northern Irish commerce and trade. Other members of the DUP have dismissed the Prime Minister’s speech as “foolish talk.”
It was almost completely assured that the Labour Party will vote against the deal tomorrow, along with public announcements of disapproval from around 100 conservative MPs, and all of the DUPs 10 sitting MPs.
Parts of the speech released to the media previously were met with criticism by opposition politicians after they suggested May would mention the 1997 Welsh referendum, where the vote was passed with a margin of 0.3%. The eventual result was claimed in the speech to have been “accepted by both sides” when even May herself voted against the eventual result in 1997 and the 2005 Conservative Manifesto even pledged to offer a second referendum on the result of the vote. This part of the speech has since been amended to mention the results as “accepted by Parliament”.
In the wake of May’s speech, a senior Conservative whip has also sent in his letter of resignation to Downing Street due to his opposition to May’s Brexit deal.
Gareth Johnson, the Conservative whip and MP for Dartford, has sent a formal letter of resignation to the Prime Minister. Johnson stated in the letter that he can no longer support May’s deal “when it is clear this deal would be detrimental to our nation’s interests.”
This brings the total number of Conservative MPs who have resigned because of May’s Brexit deal to 13.
Johnson has served as MP for Dartford since 2010 and gained a large majority in both all 3 general elections he has ran in, and previously served as a Councillor. He has also served as the Conservative party’s whip since 2015.
It now appears highly unlikely that the Prime Minister will be able to attain the majority she needs to put her Brexit deal into action, with many MPs from her own party voicing their opposition to her actions in lieu of the vote planned for Tuesday. Should the vote be unsuccessful, the next few days will involve May returning the Brussels and attempting to direct the EU to make further concessions on the deal and have it accepted once against by all members of the European Commission. Next Monday, a vote will then be held on “Plan B”, the next course of action planned by Theresa May, the details of which are still largely unknown to MPs and the wider public, which is hypothesised to be a series of indicative votes used to test Parliament’s opinions to give the EU a clearer picture of directions for negotiation.