The UK will not get a better Brexit deal if they vote down the one agreed in Brussels yesterday, MPs have been told, with British and European leaders warning that there is “no plan B”.
The heads of the 27 other EU governments took just 38 minutes to sign off the UK’s Brexit deal, paving the way for a crucial Commons vote likely to be in three weeks’ time.
But with well over 80 MPs in her own party saying they will reject the deal, the odds are stacked against Theresa May, who yesterday refused to say whether she would stay on as Prime Minister if she loses.
Mrs May will go to the Commons today with the message that “there is not a better deal available”.
The Prime Minister will also brief her Cabinet on the final deal. Most of her ministers offered their backing on social media yesterday, but several senior pro-Brexit figures, including Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox and Geoffrey Cox made no public comment. In Brussels, EU leaders spoke of their sadness as the UK’s Brexit “divorce” was signed off, with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker saying it was “not a day for champagne”.
But Mrs May struck a defiant tone, replying when asked if she shared their sadness: “No. But I recognise that others do.”
The Prime Minister is expected to tell MPs today: “Our duty as a Parliament over these coming weeks is to examine this deal in detail, to debate it respectfully, to listen to our constituents and decide what is in our national interest.
“We can back this deal, deliver on the vote of the referendum and move on to building a brighter future of opportunity and prosperity for all our people.
“Or this House can choose to reject this deal and go back to square one.”
Speaking in Brussels after the deal was agreed, Mrs May told her opponents that “the British people don’t want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit”.
She warned MPs not to “open the door to yet more division and uncertainty” by voting down her deal.
The Prime Minister said: “If people think somehow there is another negotiation to be done, that’s not the case.
“This is the deal.
“It is the result of what have been tough and difficult negotiations over a significant period of time.”
That message was backed up in force by European leaders.
Mr Juncker told reporters: “This is the deal. It’s the best deal possible and the EU will not change its fundamental position when it comes to these issues.”
Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, warned that “any other deal really only exists in people’s imagination”, and claimed Brexiteers who are threatening to vote against the agreement in the Commons “don’t agree among themselves what that better deal could be”.
“There isn’t a plan B,” he said. “The truth is what we have here is the best deal that is available both for the United Kingdom and for the European Union.”
Mr Varadkar added: “Anyone can have a better deal or an alternative deal in their own minds, but an agreement 500 pages long that 28 member states can sign up to, nobody has that. What’s on the table is the only deal that’s on the table.”
His Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, also urged MPs to give their approval in a “meaningful vote” in the House of Commons, expected in three weeks’ time.
“This is the deal on the table. I don’t think there is anything more now. I don’t want to contemplate a no vote. I think there will be a yes vote,” he said.
“I think this is the best we can all do – both Theresa May and her government as well as the European Union.
“I do think she has everything now to argue for a yes vote in the British Parliament.”
And the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that “now it is time for everybody to take their responsibility”.
Ahead of yesterday’s Brussels summit, Mrs May issued a direct plea to the public to support her Brexit deal, writing in a “letter to the nation”that it would mark “a new chapter in our national life” and bring about a moment of “renewal and reconciliation”.
Stephen Kerr, the Conservative MP for Stirling, attacked the SNP over their opposition to the deal.
“The EU has made it abundantly clear today: this is the only deal on the table,” Mr Kerr said.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s opposition to this deal is obviously self-interested. The SNP just wants to take us back to yet more constitutional chaos – and we will oppose that every step of the way.”