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'We must stand together as patriots': Theresa May tells MPs that voting against her deal again could stop Brexit

An extension of Article 50 is expected to be voted upon by EU members this week.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves from Downing Street earlier this week
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves from Downing Street earlier this week
Image: AP/PA Images

THERESA MAY HAS warned MPs that a failure to pass her EU withdrawal deal in a third ‘meaningful vote’ this week could see Brexit postponed indefinitely.

The British Prime Minister said that if her deal was not backed before a European Council summit on Thursday, the UK would “not leave the EU for many months, if ever”.

Writing in today’s Sunday Telegraph, May claimed that a “short technical extension” of Article 50 would be required beyond March 29 Brexit to avoid a no-deal Brexit, a scenario that MPs voted against in the House of Commons this week.

That extension is expected to be voted upon by the remaining 27 EU members at this week’s council meeting in Brussels.

“That is not an ideal outcome – we could and should have been leaving the EU on March 29,” she said.

“But it is something the British people would accept if it led swiftly to delivering Brexit. The alternative if Parliament cannot agree the deal by that time is much worse.”

May warned that if MPs did not pass her deal before that EU summit, it would mean having to negotiate another withdrawal deal, requiring a much longer extension of Article 50.

This would force the UK would to partake in European Parliament elections in May, three years after voting to leave the EU, something May said would be a symbol of the failure of British politics.

“The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears thinking about,” she said.

“There could be no more potent symbol of Parliament’s collective political failure.”

Appealing to MPs to back her deal, May acknowledged that she would have to do more to convince them if she was to secure a majority for it, which she said was “the only way through the current impasse”.

“All this makes the choice now facing MPs clearer than it has ever been,” she said.

“If Parliament can find a way to back the Brexit deal before European Council, the UK will leave the EU this spring, without having to take part in the European elections, and we can get on with building our future relationship with the EU.

“If it cannot, we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever.”

Speaking today, two of May’s top ministers warned that the Prime Minister might not even hold a third vote on her deal unless she secures support from within the Conservative Party.

“It would be difficult to justify having a vote if you knew you were going to lose it,” international trade secretary Liam Fox told Sky News.

“We will only bring the deal back if we are confident that enough of our colleagues… are prepared to support it so that we can get it through parliament,” finance minister Philip Hammond said on the BBC.

However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rubbished suggestions that his party would support the deal, calling it a “blindfold Brexit that… [would] do enormous damage” to the British economy.

Instead, Corbyn told Sky News that he might support a proposal from within his own party to have a second referendum on Brexit if it is postponed this week.

“It would obviously have to be a credible choice that’s real for those that wanted to vote leave, or did vote leave in 2016, as well as those that voted remain,” he said.

With additional reporting from - © AFP 2019

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