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Everything you need to know about Theresa May's historic Brexit vote this Tuesday

The Labour Party’s Chris Bryant said the future relations declaration was “no more deliverable than a letter to Santa Claus”.

Theresa May attends the ceremony to light up a Christmas tree at 10 Downing Street.
Theresa May attends the ceremony to light up a Christmas tree at 10 Downing Street.
Image: Frank Augstein

THIS TUESDAY, THE 11 December, MPs will vote on whether they approve of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, in what’s being called “the meaningful vote”.

MPs voted in favour of the House of Commons having a final say on the Brexit deal negotiated between the EU and the UK over the past two years.

After Theresa May struck a Brexit deal with the EU, and getting the approval of her Cabinet ministers (somehow), it was decided that the meaningful vote should be held on 11 December at around 7pm.

Ahead of the vote, Theresa May has travelled around the country to try to rally public support for her deal – possibly in the hope that this would put pressure on MPs to vote for the Brexit deal. There have also been five days of debates in the House of Commons on whether the Brexit deal should pass or not.

Right now, it doesn’t look likely that the deal will pass. Some British newspapers reported yesterday that the deal would be defeated by as many as 100 votes.

It took the European Council, which is headed by Donald Tusk and comprises of all EU 27 member states’ leaders, just 38 minutes to approve the deal last month.

There was also talk of delaying the vote to allow Theresa May the time to explain how the UK could leave the Irish backstop under the current deal.

Why is the deal so disliked?

The deal struck between the EU and UK pleases neither side of the Brexit debate.

On one hand, it suggests that the UK leaves the Single Market to allow the UK to limit the freedom of movement of people. The UK would be in favour of keeping the freedom of goods, services and capital (particularly to protect London’s booming financial sector) but the EU has said that it will not split the four freedoms – it’s either all or none.

The deal holds provisions for an Irish backstop, which the UK Attorney General said could “endure indefinitely” and leave the UK permanently in a customs arrangement with the EU.

The AG’s advice also said that it was possible that Northern Ireland could remain in the EU customs territory under the deal, and Great Britain could fall outside it, if negotiations broke down or took “an unsatisfactory long time”.

This has fired up the DUP, who are supporting the Tories in government but look dead-set against voting for the deal (they have 10 MPs in Westminster). The DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds called the AG’s advice “devastating”.

Brexiteers have argued that if the deal is voted down, they could return to Brussels to negotiate a better deal, despite assertions from May and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier that this was “the only deal”.

Those calling for new negotiations include Dominic Raab, who resigned as Brexit Secretary after May got Cabinet to back her deal, despite the fact that he was leading negotiations on behalf of the UK.

Remain politicians are also hoping that if the deal is voted down, it could lead to the reversal of Brexit or a second referendum on EU membership.

Labour has also pledged to hold a motion of no-confidence in Theresa May if the deal fails in the House of Commons, which could lead to a general election.

What MPs are saying ahead of the vote

Treasury chief Philip Hammond told MPs that it was “simply a delusion” to think that a better Brexit deal can be renegotiated and that a no-deal Brexit would be “too awful to contemplate.”

“We need to be honest with ourselves. The alternatives to this deal are no deal or no Brexit,” he said. “Either will leave us a fractured society and a divided nation.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid told legislators on Wednesday they should back the Brexit agreement to safeguard Britain’s vital security relationship with the EU.

“No one can pretend that this deal is perfect in every sense,” Javid acknowledged. But he said the alternative was “an uncooperative no-deal” Brexit that would shut Britain out of EU security tools and EU data-sharing organisations.

But the Labour Party’s Chris Bryant said the agreement’s vision for future relations with the EU was “no more deliverable than a letter to Santa Claus”.

“How could a serious member of Parliament vote for nothing more than a wish list?” he said.

- with reporting from the Associated Press

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