Voting against Brexit deal could lead to united Ireland, warns PM May
Watch live: MPs debate Brexit deal (Belfast Telegraph)

Theresa May has warned MPs that voting against her Brexit deal could lead to a united Ireland in a last ditch attempt to push it through parliament.

The warning comes as MPs prepare for one of the most historic and significant votes in British history, when the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement goes before the House of Commons on Tuesday night.

Many commentators have already predicted Theresa May’s deal will be voted down, with Labour, scores of Tory Brexiteers and her partners in government, the DUP, already stating they will not support it.

Earlier this week, there was an exchange of letters between the UK and the EU, which offered more reassurances over the temporary nature of the backstop – a continual stick point of the Brexit negotiations.

The backstop mechanism is designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs union and parts of the single market. It would remain in place until a permanent solution is found.

The DUP, however, are firmly against the backstop as they see it as Northern Ireland being treated differently than the rest of the UK and said the EU’s letter of reassurance contains nothing legally binding.

If the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement fails, the UK could be facing a no-deal scenario, another vote, or even a general election – an option Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has mooted.

In a last gasp move to rally support for her deal, the Prime Minister has warned that to vote against it could be the break-up of the United Kingdom.

“And to those who think we should reject this deal in favour of no deal, because we cannot get every assurance we want, I ask what would a no-deal Brexit do to strengthen the hand of those campaigning for Scottish independence – or indeed those demanding a border poll in Northern Ireland? Surely this is the real threat to our union,” she said.

The warning, however, does not seem to have won over opponents of Theresa May’s deal.

On Tuesday DUP leader Arlene Foster accused Theresa May of not trying to get rid of the Northern Ireland backstop in recent discussions with Brussels.

Mrs Foster spoke at a Brexiteer event in London which was also attended by former Brexit secretaries Dominic Raab and David Davis.

Mrs Foster told the audience she had deja vu having come to London to argue against the Withdrawal Agreement before the Meaningful Vote was pulled in December.

“We said to the Prime Minister she had to get rid of the backstop and get a Withdrawal Agreement that can be lived with,” Mrs Foster said on Tuesday.

“I don’t think she even asked to get rid of the backstop.”

With 100 Conservative MPs expected to join in opposition to vote against the Withdrawal Agreement, one of its supporters, Environment secretary Michael Gove, refused to say if he expects it to pass.

“The real danger is if people do not vote for the government this evening, we face either a no-deal Brexit, with the short-term economic damage that would bring, or worse: no Brexit at all,” he said.

“We know there are people in the House of Commons and outside who have never made their peace with this decision, who want to overturn it.”

There are a total of 14 amendments to the motion tabled, with the speaker to accept only a portion of them to be debated and voted, before the final ballot on the overall motion expected late on Tuesday night.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has already stated he will table a no-confidence motion in the Government “within minutes” of a defeat for Mrs May.


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