Commons vote on May’s Brexit deal will be challenging, admits Barclay

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Theresa May faces a “challenging vote” when her Brexit deal is put before MPs, the new Brexit secretary has admitted, as the EU’s top official warned that the only alternative was leaving without one at all.

But Stephen Barclay said the Prime Minister has managed to get the best agreement possible for the United Kingdom after her two-year-long negotiation with Brussels.

Mrs May will face the Commons after EU leaders endorsed the deal at a summit on Sunday, and made it clear it was not up for renegotiation.

She will tell MPs “with absolute certainty” that “there is not a better deal available”, and challenge them to back her plan or risk crashing out without an agreement.

The PM told her Cabinet at a meeting on Monday morning that Sunday’s endorsement of the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework was “a significant moment” which had proved wrong those who said it would not be possible to reach a deal.

Mrs May’s official spokesman told reporters: “The Prime Minister’s colleagues today congratulated her and thanked her for all her hard work in securing this deal.”

The two-hour meeting also heard an update from Mr Barclay on preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit, which are continuing despite the deal being agreed in Brussels.

And Mrs May told ministers that her message to the G20 group of major economies at this weekend’s summit in Argentina will be that the UK will remain “an active and open global trading partner” as it leaves the EU.

Following her address to the Commons, Mrs May was due to host a meeting at 10 Downing Street of more than 100 investors and employers from sectors including manufacturing, retail, food and drink and financial services to discuss the Brexit plan.

Meanwhile, Downing Street chief of staff Gavin Barwell and effective deputy prime minister David Lidington are understood to have invited Labour MPs to a briefing on the agreement.

With scores of MPs declaring their intention to vote the deal down, the Brexit Secretary was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme how the Government will get it through Parliament.

Mr Barclay, who only took over the role from Dominic Raab earlier this month, 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, 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.”

He said people needed to know what the choice now facing Britain was, adding: “The choice is between a deal, or the uncertainty that would flow from what the Chancellor said last week; the choppy waters that we will move in to if this deal does not go through.”

Speaking on the same programme, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said there will be no more negotiation on the Brexit agreement, insisting: “This is the best deal for Britain.”

He reiterated his comments from the weekend, saying: “And this is the only deal possible, so if the House (of Commons) says no, 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.”

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

The House of Commons Treasury Committee confirmed that it will release the assessments as soon as they are received, before questioning Chancellor Philip Hammond, Bank governor Mark Carney and FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey the following week.

Committee chairman Nicky Morgan said the analysis would provide Parliament with a “full and frank assessment” of the deal, and confirmed the cross-party panel would write to all MPs about the evidence it receives ahead of the “meaningful vote”, which is expected in the week of December 10.

Ahead of the vote in Parliament, Mrs May has already started a campaign of selling her deal directly to the public, in the hope their support can win round MPs opposed to the plan.

Mrs May’s spokesman declined to confirm or deny reports that Number 10 is considering a possible TV debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Jeremy would relish a head-to-head debate with Theresa May about her botched Brexit deal and the future of the country.”

In her Commons statement, the Prime Minister will say: “Our duty as a Parliament over these coming weeks is to examine this deal in detail, to debate it respectfully, to listen to our constituents and decide what is in our national interest.

“There is a choice which MPs will have to make. 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 … It would open the door to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson branded the Prime Minister’s deal a “disaster” and a “humiliation” for the UK.

In his regular Daily Telegraph column, he said: “The other EU countries have signed the deal immediately, because they know that they have us exactly where they want us.

“We are a satellite state – a memento mori fixed on the walls of Brussels as a ghastly gaping warning to all who try to escape.”

More than 80 Tories have rejected the deal, with opposition parties – and Mrs May’s allies in the DUP – also set to oppose it.

Also writing in the Telegraph, deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds demanded the Government go back to the negotiating table “rather than waste any more time putting forward false choices”.

“We are heading under this deal for Brexit in name only or the break-up of the United Kingdom,” he warned.

“The tragedy is that it is all so utterly unnecessary.”

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