One last chance to get Brexit done, says PM

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Media captionTheresa May says failure to back her deal risks “no Brexit at all”.

Theresa May has told MPs they have “one last chance” to deliver Brexit, as she set out a “new Brexit deal”.

MPs will get a vote on whether to hold another referendum if they back the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, she said.

The bill also contains new guarantees on workers’ rights, environmental protections and the Irish backstop as well a customs “compromise”.

If MPs reject the bill, she warned them a negotiated exit would be “dead in the water” and Brexit could be stopped.

But the Democratic Unionists said the proposals were still “fundamentally flawed” while ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith described the plan as a “bad buffet of non Brexit options”.

MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU three times.

In what is seen as a last roll of the dice, Mrs May is now bringing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – legislation required to bring the agreement into UK law – to Parliament in early June.

In a speech in London, the prime minister said the deadlock over Brexit was having a “corrosive” impact on the country and stopping progress in other areas.

“The biggest problem with Britain today is its politics. We can fix that.

“We are making a new offer to find common ground in Parliament. That is the only way to deliver Brexit.”

The key points of the PM’s revised plan are:

  • A guarantee of a Commons vote on another referendum before the Brexit agreement is ratified, with the government honouring the outcome
  • A vote on different customs options, including a government proposal for a temporary customs union for goods – what Mrs May called a “customs compromise”
  • A legal obligation for the UK to come up with an alternative to the Northern Ireland backstop by the end of 2020
  • If the backstop does come into force, the bill would guarantee that Northern Ireland remains aligned with the rest of the UK and will not be not part of a separate customs territory
  • Legislation to ensure workers rights are “every bit as good if not better” after Brexit and guarantees of no dilution in environmental standards
  • A legal duty to seek changes to the political declaration on future relations with the EU

While she personally opposed another referendum on the terms of Brexit, the PM said she recognised the “genuine and sincere” feelings on the issue in Parliament.

She urged MPs to back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at its first parliamentary hurdle in and then “make the case” for another public vote when the bill was examined in detail.

Under the plan, Parliament will get to decide on the shape of future customs arrangements with the EU after cross-party talks failed to find a solution.

Appealing to MPs to back her plan, she said it would honour the 2016 referendum result, adding: “I have compromised, now I ask you to compromise too.”

Tory Brexiteers responded sceptically to the PM’s new plan.

Mr Duncan Smith said it left the EU “firmly in control of our destiny” while Anne-Marie accused Mrs May of “trying to ram her botched deal through on Labour votes by keeping us in the customs union and allowing Brussels to dictate our future trade policy”.

The SNP and Change UK have also said they will vote against the bill.

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