Theresa May insisted her Brexit deal with the European Union could not be rewritten, arguing the UK would not get a “better deal” if MPs rejected the agreement.
The Prime Minister is facing demands from MPs across the political spectrum to abandon her plan and go back to the negotiating table, while the Spanish government has stepped up efforts to secure concessions over Gibraltar.
In a BBC phone-in as part of her drive to sell the agreement to the public, Mrs May yesterday insisted there was no mood on the EU side for fresh concessions.
“If we were to go back to the European Union and say ‘people didn’t like that deal, can we have another one?’, I don’t think they are going to come to us and say ‘we will give you a better deal’,” she said.
“This is the deal that I think works for the UK.”
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab – a committed Leaver who quit last week over the agreement – earlier said he believed the terms were so bad the UK would be better off remaining in the EU.
If this deal doesn’t go through we are back at square one. What we end up with is more uncertainty and more divisionTHERESA MAY Prime Minister
“I’m not going to advocate staying in the EU,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. “But if you just presented me terms, this deal or EU membership, because we would effectively be bound by the same rules, but without the control or voice over them, yes, I think this would be even worse than that.”
With more than 80 Conservative MPs from both the Leave and Remain sides threatening to vote against the agreement, Mr Raab warned it was unlikely to get through the Commons. He said ministers should consider leaving without a deal. “We will, I think, see Parliament vote this deal down,” he said. “And then some other alternatives will need to come into play.”
Mrs May, however, warned rejection of her plan would lead to more “uncertainty and division” and said the public now wanted the government to get on and deliver Brexit.
“In Parliament there’s a lot of focus on who’s going to vote for the deal or not, and outside I think people are thinking ‘actually, let’s make sure we can get this through and get on with delivering’,” she said. “If this deal doesn’t go through we are back at square one. What we end up with is more uncertainty and more division.”
Despite the turmoil, the Prime Minister again insisted that as far as she was concerned, Brexit would go ahead next year as planned.
“Personally, there is no question of no Brexit because the government needs to deliver on what people voted for in the referendum in 2016,” she said. “As far as I am concerned, the UK is leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019.”
The latest clash came as Mrs May was warned she faced a battle to reach a final agreement on her deal at a summit of European Union leaders tomorrow. Spanish premier Pedro Sanchez demanded last-minute changes to reflect Spain’s continuing concerns over the status of Gibraltar.
Spain’s junior minister for the EU, Luis Marco Aguiriano, said: “We have a promise from the British government, saying they are ready to… guarantee that they will go along with the clarification we have requested.”