Theresa May has urged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to compromise and back her Brexit deal after the proposals received a hostile response from critics on her own side.
The UK Prime Minister’s deal, which opens up the possibility of a second referendum, was described as “dead on arrival”, with the prospect of a larger Tory revolt than her previous failed attempt to get a Brexit agreement through Parliament.
Leadership rivals Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab were among Tories who backed Mrs May’s deal in March but have vowed to oppose the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB).
Rejection of the WAB would heap further pressure on Mrs May to quit immediately, but some Tories called on her to go now without even risking the humiliation of a fourth Commons defeat on Brexit.
Mrs May, who will face the Commons on Wednesday, hopes her 10-point compromise plan will woo enough Labour and DUP MPs to make up for Tory Eurosceptics who are implacably opposed to her deal.
In a letter to Mr Corbyn, she highlighted the tests he had set at the start of the failed process to reach a cross-party agreement, and insisted that the proposals would hold “for the remainder of this parliament” – a reference to his concerns that her successor could unpick a deal.
She told him: “I have shown … that I am willing to compromise to deliver Brexit for the British people.
“The WAB is our last chance to do so. I ask you to compromise too so that we can deliver what both our parties promised in our manifestos and restore faith in our politics.”
On Tuesday Mr Corbyn said: “We will, of course, look seriously at the details of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill when it is published.
“But we won’t back a repackaged version of the same old deal – and it’s clear that this weak and disintegrating government is unable to deliver on its own commitments.”
We can and must do better – and deliver what the people voted for
Mrs May’s last-ditch attempt to get a deal through included offering a vote on whether to hold a second referendum, as well as a choice over the UK’s future customs arrangements.
But the deal was described as “dead on arrival” by Conservative Mark Francois, vice-chairman of the European Research Group (ERG).
With great reluctance I backed MV3. Now we are being asked to vote for a customs union and a second referendum. The Bill is directly against our manifesto – and I will not vote for it. We can and must do better – and deliver what the people voted for.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) May 21, 2019
Former foreign secretary Mr Johnson said: “Now we are being asked to vote for a customs union and a second referendum. The Bill is directly against our manifesto – and I will not vote for it.
“We can and must do better – and deliver what the people voted for.”
Former Brexit secretary Mr Raab said: “I cannot support legislation that would be the vehicle for a second referendum or Customs Union.
“Either option would frustrate rather than deliver Brexit – and break our clear manifesto promises.”
I listened carefully to the PM’s speech on the govt’s revised terms of Brexit. I cannot support legislation that would be the vehicle for a second referendum or Customs Union. Either option would frustrate rather than deliver Brexit – and break our clear manifesto promises.
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) May 21, 2019
Brexiteer Cabinet ministers are understood to be trying to persuade Mrs May to ditch the fourth attempt to pass her deal, warning the vote will end in yet another humiliation.
And the beleaguered Prime Minister faces a fresh bid to eject her from Downing Street from the 1922 backbenchers’ committee, which meets later on Wednesday.
Tory MP Nigel Evans, who sits on the 1922 executive, said he would be seeking a rule change to hold another confidence vote and the Prime Minister should “make way for fresh leadership without handcuffing her successor to a poisoned baton”.
I cannot support this deal. The PM has capitulated and should make way for fresh leadership without handcuffing her successor to a poisoned baton.
— nigelevansRibbleV. (@nigelmp) May 21, 2019
Mrs May said her deal was “one last chance” for MPs to deliver on the result of the 2016 referendum and take the UK out of the European Union.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) May 21, 2019
In an appeal to MPs, she said that the “biggest problem with Britain today is its politics” but with the right Brexit deal “we can end this corrosive debate”.
In a message to MPs, she said: “Reject this deal and leaving the EU with a negotiated deal any time soon will be dead in the water.”
But as well as Tory anger, Mrs May also failed to win immediate support from her DUP allies.
DUP parliamentary leader Nigel Dodds said: “We will examine the legislation closely when the Bill is finally published but the fundamental flaws of the draft Withdrawal Agreement treaty itself remain unchanged.
“Many of the proposals on the backstop serve as an attempt through domestic law to mitigate a bad deal, whereas the focus should be on getting a better deal.”
Mrs May is also braced for a backlash from voters in Thursday’s European elections as former Conservative voters switch to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in their droves.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, who has received an opinion poll boost for his clear anti-Brexit message, will carry out a whistle-stop tour of the country, taking in Mr Corbyn’s constituency of Islington, north London, before travelling to Edinburgh and Cambridge, as he urges Remain voters to lend his party their support.