Battle to beat down Tory Brexit rebels continues as Fox takes up the stick

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Liam Fox will take a swipe at Tory opponents of Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Friday, accusing them of not facing up to the fact she has had to make tough choices.

The International Trade Secretary will visit the South West as he becomes the latest Cabinet minister to come out to bat for the Prime Minister ahead of the meaningful vote on December 11.

His intervention will come as Theresa May urged MPs to back her Brexit plan to avoid “division and uncertainty”, warning: “A divided country is not a country that prospers.”

The Prime Minister was speaking from almost 7,000 miles away in Buenos Aires at the G20 with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, the number of Tory MPs who will not back her Withdrawal Agreement has reportedly reached 100, putting its success in serious jeopardy.

It also comes as the Conservatives and Labour, divided over Brexit, also find themselves unable to come to an agreement over the hotly anticipated televised debate on Brexit.

Downing Street are said to prefer a proposal put forward by the BBC for a December 9 tete-a-tete between the PM and Jeremy Corbyn, with Labour favouring a rival one-on-one offer from ITV.

Meanwhile a multitude of other groups and parties are continuing to sound off they should also be allowed to take part, with campaigners for a second referendum even saying they were complaining to Ofcom.

Dr Fox, an ardent Brexiteer, will tell an audience at Portbury Royal Docks near Bristol that while the deal hammered out with Brussels will not please everyone it provides a “firm and stable base” on which to leave the European Union.

He is also due to outline Britain’s future global trading role, saying it is “time to raise our sights, and acknowledge that there is a world beyond Europe, and a time beyond Brexit”.

Dr Fox is expected to say: “The withdrawal agreement and the political declaration will not please everyone, and we have had some tough choices to make.

“Choices which many in Parliament, on both sides of the House, are yet to face up to.

“But the deal we’ve reached will give us a firm and stable base on which to leave the EU and build this country’s global future, a future that still encompasses Europe, of course, but also the wide fast-growing markets beyond, with all the opportunity that entails.”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Theresa May is in Buenos Aires at the G20 summit (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

In his speech he is also due to make an appeal for unity and a healing of political divisions over the referendum result, adding: “In politics we cannot always have the luxury of doing what we want for ourselves, but we have an abiding duty to do what is right for our country.”

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters on her flight to the G20 summit, Mrs May said a defeat in the Commons in a fortnight would mean “there will be decisions to be taken by Government and by business in relation to the practical preparations they would be looking to make for no-deal.”

“The focus of myself and the Government is on the vote taking place on December 11. We will be telling MPs why we believe this is a good deal for the UK because it is a deal that delivers on the Brexit vote.”

However, fellow Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has written in the Daily Telegraph of an effort to “frighten and to gull (people) into acquiescing to a non-Brexit Brexit”.

The Conservative MP for North East Somerset added: “(The) Withdrawal Agreement contradicts its previous and clear policies, while its spokesmen insist that the reverse is true.

“In the 2017 manifesto, the Conservatives said that the country would leave the single market and the customs union.

“The backstop and the proposed treaty keep the whole of the UK in the customs union, which allows the EU to set tax rates, with Northern Ireland in the single market too.

“There was no footnote listing these exceptions. The promises were clear and have been broken.”

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