UK Cabinet members called for last-minute concessions by the European Union so Theresa May can get her Brexit deal through Parliament this week.
Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom, a leading Brexit supporter, called for “one last heave” by British and EU negotiators to help the prime minister seal the agreement on the UK’s exit. She appealed to Labour, Conservative and Scottish Nationalist Party members to back the deal and defer seeking changes until they debate legislation in the weeks ahead.
“I think we all need to support the prime minister,” Leadsom said in an interview. That would mean “that we can move on” while leaving open the possibility to “potentially amend how we do this,” she said.
Talks on Brexit have all but stalled after the EU unveiled a proposal on Friday that the UK had already rejected days earlier. Still, a Royal Air Force jet was standing by to fly May to Brussels in case of a breakthrough in the negotiations.
If May is forced to seek a Brexit delay this week, the EU is preparing to impose punitive conditions, including a multi-billion pound increase in the 39 billion-pound divorce payment, the Telegraph reported on Sunday, without saying how it got the information.
Some lawmakers are telling May to pull the vote because they expect a defeat on a similar scale as on her first attempt in January, the Times reported.
Parliament will give its verdict on May’s draft accord with Brussels on Tuesday. That’s likely to lead to a further vote in the House of Commons to delay exit day beyond March 29, allowing Parliament to take control over what happens next out of May’s hands.
The prime minister has warned that a defeat risks scuttling her blueprint for Brexit and replacing it with a scaled-down plan, potentially keeping the UK inside the EU’s single market and customs union. Markets have already priced in a Brexit delay.
For pro-Brexit campaigners, that would be a betrayal of the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU.
Cabinet ministers urged their Tory colleagues on Sunday to support May’s deal, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt saying both the EU and British parliamentarians need to be “realistic.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted defeat is not inevitable. “Benjamin Franklin said of the US Constitution, ‘I vote for this with all its faults’ and I think that’s the approach that we need to take on Tuesday,’’ Hancock told Sky News.
Outlining tactics for Tuesday’s vote, the opposition Labour Party said it wouldn’t offer an amendment to force a second referendum.
“There is a growing feeling that Tuesday should be a straight up-down vote on the deal,’’ Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, told Sky News. “Tuesday is about exposing the weakness of the prime minister.”