THERESA MAY last night threw open Downing Street for a last-minute charm offensive with her own MPs ahead of next week’s crunch Brexit vote.
The prime minister invited prominent Leavers — including Liz Truss, Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith (below) — to join some of the 200 MPs who signed a letter demanding she rule out a no-deal Brexit.
Mrs May pulled the vote on the EU withdrawal deal last month after bowing to fears the backstop would leave Northern Ireland with different rules to Britain, and the UK trapped indefinitely in a customs union. She said she was ‘continuing to work on further assurances’.
But a spokesman for EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the deal, which MPs vote on next Tuesday, would not be reopened because ‘everything on the table has been established’.
However, the DUP, which props up Mrs May’s government, has said her deal remains ‘toxic’. Digital minister Margot James also said the UK would have to ask for more time unless MPs come on board. ‘If that proves impossible then I think we need to extend Article 50,’ she told BBC Politics Live.
Earlier, Mrs May was criticised for claiming the NHS would benefit from Brexit as she launched a ten-year plan for the service. She told an audience at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool that ‘significant amounts’ of money sent to the EU would ‘be available for us to spend on our priorities and clearly the NHS is our key spending priority’.
Campaigners said the hospital was built with £56million from the European Investment Bank, and one in eight of its doctors is an EU national.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Mrs May of stoking ‘Project Fear’, saying that if MPs refused to support her ‘Frankenstein’s monster of a deal’, the government was ready ‘to push our whole economy off a cliff edge’. And Tory grandee Chris Patten said she was using ‘Doctor Strangelove’ tactics.
Meanwhile, there were angry scenes outside parliament as prominent Tory Remainer Anna Soubry criticised police for ‘standing by’ as she was called a ‘Nazi’ and mobbed by angry Brexiteers.