Theresa May has warned the UK will be in “uncharted territory” if MPs do not back her Brexit plan.
The Prime Minister, who is still seeking further guarantees from Brussels in an effort to win over critics ahead of the vote expected on January 15, warned Brexiteers they risked derailing the UK’s departure from the European Union if they did not back her deal.
And she again rejected calls for a second referendum, saying it would be disrespectful to people who voted for Brexit in 2016.
As MPs prepare to return to Westminster with the crunch Commons vote looming on the Withdrawal Agreement thrashed out with Brussels, the Prime Minister said no alternative plan was able to respect the 2016 referendum result, protect jobs and provide certainty to citizens and businesses.
Mrs May promised further measures specific to Northern Ireland and a greater role for Parliament, and said “we are still working on” getting extra assurances from Brussels as part of her drive to secure support for the deal.
She repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether she would keep putting the deal back to MPs if it gets rejected, instead saying: “If the deal is not voted on, this vote that is coming up, then actually we are going to be in uncharted territory.
“I don’t think anybody can say exactly what will happen in terms of the reaction we will see in Parliament.”
She said Labour was “playing politics” and opposing any deal to create “the greatest chaos” possible.
“We have got people who are promoting a second referendum in order to stop Brexit, and we have got people who want to see their perfect Brexit. I would say don’t let the search for the perfect become the enemy of the good because the danger there is that we end up with no Brexit at all.”
On her own future, Mrs May refused to put a timescale on her departure.
“I was clear before Christmas with my colleagues on two things: one, I’m not going to call a snap election and secondly that I’m not going to be leading the party into the 2022 general election.
“What colleagues have said they want me to do is to deliver Brexit, which is what I am working on doing and also deliver on the agenda I set out when I first became Prime Minister.”
Officially slated for the week of January 14, the Commons vote is expected to be held on Tuesday, January 15. Mrs May said it would be “that sort of time”.
Earlier, speaking to the Press Association in Los Angeles, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “Parliament needs to understand that if we’re not able to come to Parliament and get a deal, then we may end up leaving the EU with no deal.
“Most people seem to say that’s not what they want to see, well they better make up their minds before we get to a week on Tuesday because that’s going to be a very key decision-making point.”
Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner suggested Labour could offer a referendum on a renegotiated Brexit deal.
He said Labour’s plan remained to push for a general election if Mrs May’s deal was rejected, and “we would set out what we would seek to negotiate in Europe to try and deliver”.
“The reason Theresa May has had such a botched set of negotiations is because of her red lines,” he told Sky News.
“If we as a new, incoming Labour government were to go to Europe without those red lines we know that we could get a different, better deal and that’s what we want to try and achieve.
“At that stage it makes sense to go to the country and to say ‘here we are, this is what we have managed to negotiate, this is the deal that we have managed to conclude because we don’t have the same red lines as Theresa May, we think it’s a better way forward’.”
Meanwhile, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “confident” that medicine supplies would be “unhindered” in a no-deal scenario - as long as the pharmaceutical industry took action.
Asked if he could guarantee that no one would die as a result of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Hancock told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I’m confident that we will have the unhindered supply of medicines so long as the plans that we have in place are properly enacted.”