Prime Minister Theresa May is making a last-ditch attempt to persuade MPs to back her Brexit deal as Tuesday’s key Commons vote looms closer.
She will use a speech on Monday to warn that Parliament is more likely to block Brexit than let the UK leave without a deal.
Mrs May will add that trust in politics will suffer “catastrophic harm” if the referendum result is not implemented.
Labour has vowed to table a vote of no confidence if Mrs May loses.
Its leader Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would vote against the deal and would start moves to trigger a general election if it is voted down.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “We will table a motion of no confidence in the government at a time of our choosing, but it’s going to be soon, don’t worry about it.”
Mrs May’s speech comes amid reports MPs plan to take control of Brexit if her deal is defeated.
About 100 Conservative MPs, and the Democratic Unionist Party’s 10 MPs, are currently expected to join Labour and the other opposition parties in voting against the deal.
Speaking to factory workers, Mrs May will say on Monday: “As we have seen over the last few weeks, there are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so.”
She is to add that she now believes MPs blocking Brexit is more likely than a no-deal scenario.
Mrs May will say: “I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy.
“Imagine if an anti-devolution House of Commons had said to the people of Scotland or Wales that despite voting in favour of a devolved legislature, Parliament knew better and would overrule them. Or else force them to vote again.
“What if we found ourselves in a situation where Parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a remain vote?
“People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm. We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum.”
She is to give the example of the Welsh devolution referendum in 1997, when people voted by a margin of 0.3% to create the Welsh Assembly, arguing: “That result was accepted by both sides and the popular legitimacy of that institution has never seriously been questioned.”
However, records show Mrs May did in fact herself vote against the establishment of the Welsh Assembly after that referendum – while the 2005 Conservative manifesto pledged to offer the Welsh people a “referendum on whether to keep the Assembly in its current form, increase its powers or abolish it”.
In her speech on Monday, Mrs May will add: “Parliament understood this fact when it voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50. And both major parties did so too when they stood on election manifestos in 2017 that pledged to honour the result of the referendum.”
What happens next?
Here is what is likely to happen:
- Monday – Day four of MPs’ Brexit debate, with the PM set to make a statement to the Commons setting out reassurances from the EU over the Irish backstop
- Tuesday – Day five of debate followed by “meaningful vote” on the PM’s deal. MPs will also get to vote on amendments that could reshape the deal. If the deal is rejected Theresa May will get three working days to come up with a “plan B”
- Wednesday – Mrs May is likely to head to Brussels to try to get further concessions from the EU
- Monday 21 January – Expected Commons vote on “Plan B”
The UK will leave the EU on Friday, 29 March, unless MPs vote to delay or cancel Brexit.
What are others saying?
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable – who opposes Brexit – said: “The increasingly desperate language from the prime minister more than suggests a great deal of panic.
“But she cannot be allowed to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. A chaotic no-deal Brexit is a choice and it is in the gift of the government to prevent it.”
He argued that the best way forward was to have another referendum, including the option to remain in the EU.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who is also campaigning for another referendum, said Mrs May’s deal would do “great harm to our economy”.
Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show there was greater “uncertainty” after Commons Speaker John Bercow’s decision last week to allow MPs to change the parliamentary timetable.
He warned “those on the Brexiteer side seeking ideological purity” by voting down Mrs May’s deal that they risked “leaving the door ajar to ways that increase the risk to Brexit”.
“There are lots of different plans being put forward by Members of Parliament that don’t respect the result (of the referendum) or risk no deal,” he added.
What about reports of MPs planning to take over Brexit?
The UK will leave the EU on 29 March unless there is a new act of Parliament preventing that.
Because the government controls the timetable for Commons business, it was assumed that this would not be possible.
But three senior Conservative backbenchers are to publish a bill on Monday night that would allow MPs to frame a “compromise” Brexit deal if Theresa May fails to come up with a plan B, Tory Nick Boles has revealed.
Mr Boles said he, Sir Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan were behind the “European Union Withdrawal Number 2 Bill”, which would see the Liaison Committee – made up of the chairmen and chairwomen of all the Commons select committees – take a key role if the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement is rejected by Parliament.
Mr Boles said all three planned to vote for the PM’s deal, but would act if it failed.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This bill would do the following: it would give the Government three more weeks to get a compromise deal, a plan B, through Parliament so that we are leaving the EU on time on March 29 with a deal.
“If that failed, it would… give the Liaison Committee the responsibility to try and come up with its own compromise deal, which would have to go back to the House for a vote.
“If the House passed that compromise deal, then the Government would be legally required to implement whatever it was that they had.”
Downing Street has said it is “extremely concerned” about the plot, which it says could potentially overturn centuries of Parliamentary precedent.
Are more Tory backbenchers coming round to the deal?
Four Conservative Brexiteer MPs who have been critics of the withdrawal agreement have now said they will support the government in the vote on Tuesday.
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for the Cotswolds, said he still had “deep misgivings” about many aspects of Mrs May’s deal.
But he said: “The events of last week have clearly demonstrated that the Speaker and MPs who wish to remain in the EU will stop at nothing to prevent that happening.”
Former Public Accounts Committee chairman Sir Edward Leigh said Brexit-supporting MPs were “playing with fire” if they voted down the deal.
Andrew Murrison, a former minister, and Caroline Johnson, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, also said they were backing the government despite reservations.
What are the chances of another referendum on leaving the EU?
A cross-party group of anti-Brexit politicians have published proposed legislation to bring about a second referendum on leaving the EU.
The draft Bill recommends that the public be asked whether they want to remain in the EU or leave under the prime minister’s deal.
The MPs behind the draft legislation point out that Article 50 – the two-year process by which an EU member leaves the bloc – would have to be extended in order for another poll to take place, meaning the UK would remain a member beyond 29 March.
The legislation could be introduced through the House of Lords under plans being considered by the group.