May heads to Brexit-backing city to make last-ditch plea to rebel MPs

Theresa May
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Prime Minister Theresa May will on Monday repeat weekend warnings to MPs poised to reject her EU divorce deal that failing to deliver Brexit would be “catastrophic” for British democracy.

On the eve of Tuesday’s monumental vote in parliament on her withdrawal agreement forged from 18 months of gruelling negotiations with European leaders, May is set to address factory workers in Stoke, a Brexit-backing city in central England.

The embattled leader, who is widely expected to lose the House of Commons vote by a wide margin, will make a final bid for support by arguing: “We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum.

“I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy,” May is expected to say, according to excerpts of her speech released by her office.

“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?” she will ask.

“People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.”

Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29 but with less than 11 weeks left, has yet to finalise the terms of its departure.

May’s deal agrees a 21-month transition period under current terms while the future relationship with the bloc is negotiated but it has drawn steadfast opposition from both Brexiteers and Remainers.

The prime minister has said rejecting it will throw Britain into “uncharted territory” and put the country at risk of crashing out without an agreement, or even no Brexit at all.

The opposition Labour Party, which favours remaining in a permanent customs union with the EU, has suggested it will seek a no-confidence vote in the government if MPs throw out the plan.

The Observer newspaper reported Sunday that its lawmakers have been told it could be tabled “within hours” of that on Tuesday, with the confidence vote to be held the following day.

If the government lose a no-confidence motion, there will be a period of 14 days in which parties can seek to find an alternative working majority in parliament.

If they fail to do so, a general election would be called.

“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,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC on Sunday.

Corbyn conceded if the party won power, parliament would likely need to delay Brexit beyond March 29 so it could renegotiate the withdrawal agreement.

The prime minister already postponed a House of Commons vote on her plan in December to avoid defeat — and MPs look set to reject it again on Tuesday.