The Prime Minister uses an article in today’s Mail on Sunday to issue a patriotic rallying cry, telling her opponents that they ‘must realise the risks they are running with our democracy’.
With days to go until the Commons showdown on her deal, Mrs May says that MPs thinking of voting it down should consider the effect on ‘the jobs our constituents rely on to put food on the table for their families’. The vote was pulled at the last minute in December after party whips told Mrs May that more than 100 Tory MPs were expected to join forces with the DUP and Labour to defeat the measure in protest at the Irish ‘backstop’ – which they claim would trap Britain indefinitely in a form of customs union to avoid a hard border with Dublin.
Theresa May (pictured above) has warned rebellious MPs of the consequences on their actions
But as MPs return to the Commons tomorrow after their Christmas break, there appears to be little sign of any climbdown by the rebels without a major concession from Brussels – despite No 10 laying on a ‘charm offensive’ programme of drinks with Mrs May in the coming days.
Her only hope of securing Commons backing may lie in her persuading a sufficient number of Labour MPs to support the deal.
This newspaper understands that senior Tory figures were in contact with Labour MPs over the Christmas period, with begging calls even being made late on Christmas Eve in some cases. Concessions on ‘workers’ rights’ are believed to have been offered in an attempt to garner Labour backing.
In her article, Mrs May repeatedly hails the strength of British democracy, and describes ‘our genius for pragmatism’ as ‘a defining British trait’.
Describing 2019 as the year when the UK could ‘turn a corner’, she says: ‘At moments of profound challenge, we always find a way forward that commands the confidence and consent of the whole community. This is such a moment.’
The Prime Minister calls on all MPs opposed to the deal – from Tory Brexiteers to arch-Remainers hoping for a second referendum – to study their consciences.
She writes: ‘MPs of every party will face the same question when the division bell rings. It is a question of profound significance for our democracy and for our constituents. The only way to both honour the result of the referendum and protect jobs and security is by backing the deal that is on the table.’
Tory Brexiteers argue that, far from softening in their opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement, opposition has actually ‘cemented’ over the holidays, with party members using festive social events to convey their scathing view of the exit terms.
Rebel ringleader and former party leader Iain Duncan Smith today brands Downing Street’s attempts to cajole MPs into backing May’s deal as ‘stupid’.
He writes in today’s MoS: ‘Even the most loyal of advisers must know that attitudes simply haven’t changed.’
Iain Duncan Smith (pictured above) has branded Downing Street’s attempts to cajole MPs into backing May’s deal as ‘stupid’
And he warns any minor additions or legal protocols offered by Brussels to buttress the PM’s ‘charm offensive’ would be worthless.
He argues: ‘The European Court of Justice has historically sidelined protocols and other such devices, meaning the backstop will bind us without the power to withdraw.’
He adds that further talks with Brussels would be fruitless as ‘the problem has been that while our negotiators have behaved towards the EU as friends, they have treated us as adversaries.’
But Downing Street is still pinning its hopes on a ‘white smoke’ moment from Brussels – legally binding concessions over the backstop – by next weekend.
Mrs May is on standby to travel to Europe to welcome the proposals if they are deemed to be sufficiently persuasive.
If that fails, Tory whips are plotting a backbench amendment to the vote – pencilled in for January 15 or 16 – which would order yet more talks between Mrs May and the EU.
That would further delay the main vote on Mrs May’s deal.
No 10’s former legislative adviser Nikki da Costa, who resigned over the terms of the deal in November, said yesterday that party managers would hold back the ‘trick’ if they believe they are still heading for a triple-figure defeat.
She said: ‘If the EU hasn’t moved far enough, the Government may seek to spell out in an amendment what further assurances looks like. The hope would be if that was passed, the EU would feel reassured that it is worthwhile moving further, because the majority has been proven to exist for that package.
‘I expect any amendment will be quietly tested with MPs for 24 to 36 hours before it’s tabled, to see if it is going to get the support.’
Sir Vince Cable (pictured above) said the Prime Minister could be playing with fire if she refuses MPs the right to vote on her deal
But Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said the PM would be ‘playing with fire if she refuses MPs the right to vote on her deal’.
Yesterday, the stretched Tory Christmas truce collapsed completely when devout Remainer Ken Clarke dismissed the 2016 referendum as ‘one opinion poll’.
Mr Duncan Smith hit back, describing him as a ‘wrecker’ who ‘typifies what those who have never accepted the referendum believe’.
In the exclusive article Theresa May also attacks Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured above)
In her article, Mrs May also attacks Jeremy Corbyn for his ‘cynical’ Brexit policy, saying: ‘He tells one group he would keep the UK in the single market, while promising another group an end to free movement. Throughout, he has provided the opposite of leadership, serving not our national interest but always his own political interest.’
Mrs May’s words come as hundreds of lorries tomorrow take part in a ‘No Deal rehearsal’ for potential chaos at Dover, with truckers testing government plans to use the disused Manston Airport as a holding pen for HGVs.
But critics have suggested TV footage of lorries backed up in rush-hour is a fresh round of Project Fear spin.
People’s vote would be a disaster movie says Brexit TV drama writer
By Harry Cole for the Mail on Sunday
James Graham says people assume he is a ‘massively leftie, liberally, Remainy, 12-year-old-looking playwright’, but the man behind tomorrow night’s highly anticipated Brexit TV drama has delighted Leave supporters by criticising calls for a second referendum.
Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has surprised critics with its even-handed portrayal of the 2016 poll.
And speaking ahead of its screening, Mr Graham, 37, says he is not looking for a re-run, describing the last bout as ‘toxic’ and ‘traumatic’.
Benedict Cumberbatch (centre) as Dominic Cummings in a scene from the new TV movie: Brexit: The Uncivil War, written by James Graham
‘I just don’t think we would survive going through that exercise again,’ he said.
‘We can’t do that again, no matter what we do.’
Mr Graham insists he is ‘not blaming one side or the other’, but believes ‘Leave, Remain, the public and politicians did not conduct themselves in quite the best way’.
And he called for massive reform of the electoral process if questions of that magnitude are ever to be put directly to the public in the future.
Tomorrow night’s 90-minute drama focuses on how Vote Leave’s eccentric but brilliant campaign guru Dominic Cummings, played by Cumberbatch, blew up the Downing Street-led Remain campaign, pioneered by David Cameron’s spin doctor Sir Craig Oliver. Sir Craig is played by Rory Kinnear.
In one scene of the movie the iconic Brexit bus is also featured
But in a further blow to those who have declared the referendum was hijacked by Vote Leave’s use of sophisticated data to target adverts at certain groups of voters, Mr Graham scotched the conspiracy theories, saying: ‘Remain were doing it as well.’ He added: ‘The use of data is not an exclusively Right-wing thing, or conservative thing, or Leave thing. [Barack] Obama was the guy who nailed this first.
‘I don’t want the film to suggest – because I don’t believe this is true – that data used to target messages is manipulative. It’s what people have always done. It is not about changing people’s minds – it’s about finding people already sympathetic to that view and getting them to vote.
‘I hope we don’t suggest it is anything close to manipulation.’
Mr Graham said he was not hopeful that his drama will unite the warring factions or please everyone, adding: ‘People will come to it with their own baggage.’
A return to project fear? They can’t be stupid
By Iain Duncan Smith, former conservative party leader
Downing Street have got it into their heads that they can get MPs to back their Brussels deal simply by ramping up warnings about a No Deal Brexit, but they must know that isn’t the case.
Like some broken and distorted record, Project Fear runs on and on, with less and less effect.
Even the most loyal of advisers must know that attitudes simply haven’t changed.
Iain Duncan Smith (pictured above) has said the government’s plans to push the Brexit deal might not work
Yet with diminishing effect, there are yet more plans to use this tactic as MPs return to Westminster this week.
First, there have been briefings that there will be an amendment to the vote to allow Parliament to leave the backstop that keeps us tied to EU customs rules, defying any agreement struck.
Second, there is to be a ‘clarification’ on the backstop sought from the European Union by the Government in the form a new ‘protocol’.
EU expects delay in departure
The turmoil in Westminster has led senior figures in Brussels to conclude that Brexit will have to be delayed.
The Mail on Sunday has been told that the ‘prevailing assumption’ among EU negotiators is that political paralysis in Westminster will lead to a request from London for Article 50 – the procedure which triggered our departure from the EU – to be delayed beyond Brexit Day on March 29.
An EU source said: ‘We are running out of time. If, as we expect, May loses the vote, she will have to keep trying again over the coming weeks.
‘We just don’t see it passing but nor do we think your MPs will tolerate No Deal. So we are acting on the assumption that we will have to give you more time.’
The source added that there had been a ‘mood change’ about Britain remaining in the EU. After European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker described Brexit as a ‘catastrophe’ and a ‘lose-lose situation’ for both Britain and the EU, some Brussels figures have argued that Article 50 should be extended on condition that the UK holds a second referendum, with Remain as one of the options.
‘But now we increasingly think “good riddance” – we don’t want a reluctant half-member,’ said the source.
Third, we are told that the Government will simply go on putting the deal back to the Commons until – worn down by the process – Parliament accepts the deal.
The first doesn’t work because as there will have been a clear agreement, our courts will strike such action down. Second, the European Court of Justice has historically sidelined protocols and other such devices, meaning the backstop will bind us without the power to withdraw.
And third, I really can’t believe the Government could be that stupid.
As MPs come back after the Christmas break, we do so knowing that all has not gone according to plan for the Government, because Project Fear has gone wrong.
Crowded out by the drone chaos at Gatwick and illegal migrants arriving in growing numbers, it hasn’t worked.
In fact, it has been replaced by the growing sense among the public and MPs that preparations to leave with No Deal are finally being put in place.
Leaving without the Prime Minister’s deal is looking more likely – I now put it at a more than 50 per cent chance. People can see that the problem with this agreement is not just the backstop but that it negates all the good reasons to leave and has us hanging on to the worst aspects of the EU.
This deal simply doesn’t work and, far from securing Brexit, it shackles us to the EU.
If the EU really wanted a good relationship after Brexit, they would have made major changes to the deal.
The fact that they have ignored the Prime Minister’s entreaties says all you need to know about their desire to shackle us and stop us competing.
The problem has been that while our ‘negotiators’ have behaved towards the EU as friends, they have treated us as adversaries.
The only chance we have to deliver on the referendum and get a half-sensible deal is to get fully ready to leave on World Trade Organisation terms by March 29.