‘I don’t think about me’: May defies critics threatening to ‘assassinate’ her

Theresa May insisted any extension to the Brexit transition would be a last resort done in the interests of British business as she faced her enemies in the Commons today.

After a furious backlash to her latest concession in Brussels, the Prime Minister said keeping Britain in the Brexit departure lounge was not desirable.

But she said if a full trade deal was close in late 2020 it would be better than making business change rules twice or falling into the Irish backstop – which Britain wants to be a UK-wide customs arrangement that could limit trade deals.   

Mrs May hailed a ‘substantive’ shift from the EU to ensure the so-called Irish backstop is UK-wide and not Northern Ireland only.

Outlining the remaining issues, Mrs May said Britain needed agreement the Irish backstop would be UK wide. The said she wanted the option to extend transition to avoid ever using the backstop if a trade deal is close in late 2020.

She said neither the backstop or extended transition period could be never ending – and vowed in all circumstances Northern Ireland’s business would get guarantees on full access to the UK markets.

The Prime Minister defied threats from anonymous MPs to ‘knife’ and ‘assassinate’ her and will tell MPs despite the political storms the Brexit deal is 95 per cent done. 

MPs across the Commons rallied round the PM, with leading Brexiteer Steve Baker urging her to identify the culprits behind the abuse and kick them out of the Tory party.

Theresa May told MPs 95 per cent of the Brexit deal was already finished in a statement to the Commons today (pictured) 

The Prime Minister addressed MPs following a weekend of furious briefing against her that included violent claims she would be 'knifed' and 'assassinated' 

The Prime Minister addressed MPs following a weekend of furious briefing against her that included violent claims she would be 'knifed' and 'assassinated' 

The Prime Minister addressed MPs following a weekend of furious briefing against her that included violent claims she would be ‘knifed’ and ‘assassinated’ 

Mrs May (pictured leaving Downing Street today) hailed a 'substantive' shift from the EU to ensure the so-called Irish backstop is UK-wide and not Northern Ireland only

Mrs May (pictured leaving Downing Street today) hailed a 'substantive' shift from the EU to ensure the so-called Irish backstop is UK-wide and not Northern Ireland only

Mrs May (pictured leaving Downing Street today) hailed a ‘substantive’ shift from the EU to ensure the so-called Irish backstop is UK-wide and not Northern Ireland only

Eurosceptic former Cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson declared their ‘full support’ for Mrs May today – despite travelling to Brussels to lobby for an alternative to her planned deal. 

The vicious anonymous briefing against Mrs May in the Sunday newspapers has been slammed across the political spectrum and slapped down by Downing Street. 

In her speech, Mrs May told MPs ‘the shape of the deal across the vast majority of the Withdrawal Agreement is now clear.’

Mrs May said new agreements have been finalised on issues including the British base on Cyprus and with Spain on Gibraltar.

She warned the final stage may be the ‘hardest of all’ as she attempts to finalise the deal on the Irish border and the so-called backstop for how it will work in the absence of a full UK-EU trade deal. 

But vowing to defend her red lines on Northern Ireland, she said: ‘The commitment to avoiding a hard border is one that this House emphatically endorsed and enshrined in law in the Withdrawal Act earlier this year.

‘As I set out last week, the original backstop proposal from the EU was one we could not accept, as it would mean creating a customs border down the Irish Sea and breaking up the integrity of the UK.

‘I do not believe that any UK Prime Minister could ever accept this. And I certainly will not.’ 

Ahead of Mrs May’s statement, Brexit Minister John Glen – hauled to the Commons to answer questions on a possible extension to transition – played down the chance of Britain having to pay extra to the EU but deferred most questions to Mrs May. 

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the Government was offering MPs a ‘meaningful’ vote on the terms of the deal – but said the outcome must be clear as he was accused of trying to halt amendments.  

Eurosceptic former Cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson (pictured right and centre with David Trimble in Brussels today) declared their 'full support' for Mrs May today - despite travelling to Brussels to lobby for an alternative to her planned deal

Eurosceptic former Cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson (pictured right and centre with David Trimble in Brussels today) declared their 'full support' for Mrs May today - despite travelling to Brussels to lobby for an alternative to her planned deal

Eurosceptic former Cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson (pictured right and centre with David Trimble in Brussels today) declared their ‘full support’ for Mrs May today – despite travelling to Brussels to lobby for an alternative to her planned deal

The Prime Minister (pictured arriving at Downing Street today) will tell MPs later the divorce deal is 95 per cent finished with agreements now struck on issues including Gibraltar

The Prime Minister (pictured arriving at Downing Street today) will tell MPs later the divorce deal is 95 per cent finished with agreements now struck on issues including Gibraltar

The Prime Minister (pictured arriving at Downing Street today) will tell MPs later the divorce deal is 95 per cent finished with agreements now struck on issues including Gibraltar

Brexiteers hold ‘constructive’ talks with Barnier in Brussels  

Senior Brexiteers held ‘constructive’ talks with Michel Barnier in Brussels today – but denied undermining Theresa May.

Former Cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson, together with Lord David Trimble, held talks at the EU Commission in Brussels.

They promoted the virtues of a Canada-style free trade deal for Brexit Britain, the policy of the Tory European Research Group.  

Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘We are presenting some ideas which we think are constructive and we had a constructive discussion.

‘Now we are going to go back and talk to the Government about it.’

Mr Barnier has held a series of meetings with UK politicians, including groups of Remain supporters and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He insists he only negotiates with the Government and the meetings are for information on the talks only.  

The PM attempted to reassure Cabinet ministers on a conference call yesterday about proposal to extend the Brexit transition period and how a temporary customs union would work. 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling admitted to disagreements today, but played down splits insisting ‘we are not a set of clones. we don’t always agree on absolutely everything’.

There was a growing backlash today at lurid claims Mrs May is in the ‘killing zone’ and faces being hung with her ‘own noose’ at a crunch meeting of Tory MPs on Wednesday night.

Writing in the Sun today before her statement to MPs later, Mrs May said:  ‘None of this is about me. It’s all about you.

‘That’s why, when I’m confronted with tough choices during the Brexit negotiations, I don’t think about what the implications are for me.

‘Instead, I ask myself what it means for you, for your family and for the whole of the United Kingdom.’ 

Admitting the negotiations can seem ‘never ending’, Mrs May said: ‘The Brexit talks are not about me or my personal fortunes.

‘They’re about the national interest and that means making the right choices, not the easy ones.’ 

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raan (pictured today in Downing Street) has urged critics of the Government to ignore the jitters and wait for the deal to be finalised 

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raan (pictured today in Downing Street) has urged critics of the Government to ignore the jitters and wait for the deal to be finalised 

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raan (pictured today in Downing Street) has urged critics of the Government to ignore the jitters and wait for the deal to be finalised 

Home Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured in Downing Street today) specifically demanded to know whether Mrs May 'explicitly threatened the EU with no deal' in a Cabinet conference call

Home Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured in Downing Street today) specifically demanded to know whether Mrs May 'explicitly threatened the EU with no deal' in a Cabinet conference call

Home Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured in Downing Street today) specifically demanded to know whether Mrs May ‘explicitly threatened the EU with no deal’ in a Cabinet conference call

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey (pictured in Downing Street last week) was 'devastated' by Mrs May saying the Brexit transition could be extended beyond December 31, 2020, it was claimed today

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey (pictured in Downing Street last week) was 'devastated' by Mrs May saying the Brexit transition could be extended beyond December 31, 2020, it was claimed today

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey (pictured in Downing Street last week) was ‘devastated’ by Mrs May saying the Brexit transition could be extended beyond December 31, 2020, it was claimed today

Mrs May moved to calm another Cabinet revolt last night amid alarm at concessions made during last week’s summit in Brussels.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey was ‘devastated’ by Mrs May saying the Brexit transition could be extended beyond December 31, 2020, the Telegraph revealed today.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid demanded reassurance there would be a time limit on any ‘backstop’ for the Irish border in fear any temporary customs union would be allowed to drag on indefinitely.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was also among those demanding reassurance.  

Britain has proposed leaving the entire UK inside customs union rules in the absence of a backstop to meet EU demands the Irish border stays open after Brexit. Brussels had suggested this only apply to Northern Ireland but this would threaten the Union. 

The backstop is only supposed to apply between the end of the transition and the start of a trade deal. Extending transition is intended to make it less likely it will ever be used. 

The Telegraph said Mr Javid specifically demanded to know whether Mrs May ‘explicitly threatened the EU with no deal’. 

Amid a growing revolt and claims Mrs May could be ousted, former Brexit secretary David Davis published his own plans for finishing the negotiations 

Amid a growing revolt and claims Mrs May could be ousted, former Brexit secretary David Davis published his own plans for finishing the negotiations 

Amid a growing revolt and claims Mrs May could be ousted, former Brexit secretary David Davis published his own plans for finishing the negotiations 

Mrs May will tell MPs later: ‘The shape of the deal across the vast majority of the Withdrawal Agreement is now clear.

‘The commitment to avoiding a hard border is one that this House emphatically endorsed and enshrined in law in the Withdrawal Act earlier this year.

‘As I set out last week, the original backstop proposal from the EU was one we could not accept, as it would mean creating a customs border down the Irish Sea and breaking up the integrity of the UK.

‘I do not believe that any UK Prime Minister could ever accept this. And I certainly will not.’

She will also say that the Government has agreed ‘underlying memoranda’ after discussions with Spain to resolve the issue of Gibraltar after Brexit, ‘heralding a new era in our relations’.  

What is the Brexit transition and how could it be extended?

What is the Brexit transition period?

The EU and UK agreed in March that there would be a 21-month transition after Brexit day on March 29, 2019. It is due to expire on December 31, 2020.

In the period Britain will still obey all EU rules without having any say in setting them, pay membership fees, and have the same trade terms.

The current plan has not yet been voted on in Parliament.

How long could it be extended?

There is a new proposal to extend transition for another few months, possibly to the end of 2021.

Why is there talk of extending it?

March’s agreement also included a commitment to create a ‘backstop’ on the Irish border – a back up plan to ensure the border stays open in the absence of a long term trade deal.

There is a deep dispute over how this should work so the new suggestion is a longer transition could allow a full trade deal to be completed in time for the backstop never to be used.

The theory is this takes pressure off the exact form of the backstop, making it easier to agree and solving the last issue in the divorce deal.

Does anyone support extending it?

The EU says it is willing to adopt a longer transition if Britain asks for it.

Theresa May says Britain is not asking for a longer transition – but might accept a mechanism for extending the current transition.

Tory Brexiteers hate the idea, fearing it will just be extended again and again and leave Britain facing billions in extra charges.

Government sources tried to calm the row today by insisting an extension would only be acceptable if the EU accepted the UK’s version of the backstop.

Would it solve the Irish problem?

Nobody knows. Both sides are still far apart on how the backstop will work and there is doubt a full trade deal can be finished even by the end of 2021.

What happens if transition is extended?

Britain would continue to follow all EU rules without having a say on how new ones are made – meaning continued free movement, European Court judgements and bills to Brussels.

Trade across the Channel would also continue under today’s rules.

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