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Theresa May's Brexit gamble backfires as she warns of a 'nightmare future' and backlash comes from all sides

The i logo The i 21/05/2019 Nigel Morris
a close up of Theresa Mays face © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Theresa May’s final Brexit gamble backfired as Conservative MPs furiously denounced her attempt to woo Labour MPs with the prospect of a second referendum on European Union membership.

She described her plans - which are due to come before the Commons in a fortnight - as a “new Brexit deal” which could build consensus at Westminster.

And Mrs May warned that MPs risked “opening the door to a nightmare future of permanently polarised politics” if they rejected her Brexit blueprint for the fourth time.

Second referendum anger

But she faced an immediate Tory backlash over her offer to stage votes on whether to call a second referendum and Britain’s future customs links with the EU if the Commons gave an initial go-ahead to her plans.

Her moves were also dismissed by the opposition parties and the DUP, the Conservatives’ confidence and supply partners, leaving Mrs May facing the threat of a crushing defeat for her Withdrawal Agreement Bill early next month.

a group of people sitting at a desk © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

The Prime Minister, who will face MPs on Wednesday in what is shaping up to become a bruising encounter, set out her 10-point compromise package in a speech in central London.

As well as vote on holding a second referendum, MPs will also be offered a choice over the shape of Britain’s future customs links with the EU.

They would be offered the options of a temporary customs union for goods with the bloc after Brexit and of Britain trading with a minimum of friction outside a customs union.

The moves - as well as pledges to enshrine EU environmental standards and workplace rights - were designed to reach out to Labour backbenchers.

Losing more support

But Tory critics protested that Mrs May could be paving the way toward a second referendum which overturn the 2016 vote to Leave. Several MPs who had previously backed her plans said they would vote against the Prime Minister next time.

Nor was there any sign of opposition MPs switching sides to support her proposals when she makes her last-ditch attempt to get them through the Commons.

Jacob Rees-Mogg wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a brick building © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Jacob Rees-Mogg now says 'leave on WTO terms' (Photo: Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

The moves were signed off by the Cabinet after a heated two-hour session after which pro-Brexit ministers refused to endorse the options of UK membership of a permanent customs union or a guaranteed second referendum.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group of Tory MPs, said: “The Prime Minister’s latest proposals are worse than before and would leave us bound deeply in to the EU. It is time to leave on WTO terms.”

Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party, accused Mrs May of “watering down” the deal and said: “If there were any Eurosceptic Tories half considering voting Tory on Thursday, they’re not now.”

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