Brexit debate: MPs to focus on economic impact of May deal

Theresa May walks past a Christmas tree as she leaves 10 Downing Street Image copyright Reuters

Brexit’s economic effects will be the focus of a Commons debate later, as government whips work behind the scenes to gain support for Theresa May’s deal.

Ministers will say it creates a unique partnership with the EU, while Labour argues it will make people poorer.

Late on Wednesday, chief whip Julian Smith tried to win over pro-Brexit Tories, while civil servants will brief senior MPs on a no-deal scenario later.

However, one Brexiteer complained this was a bid to “spook grandees”.

Before the third of five days’ debate, it has been suggested by some Conservatives that the prime minister ought to postpone next Tuesday’s vote to avoid defeat.

A government source told the BBC that whips are looking at all options to deliver a majority.

BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley said there was “fervent speculation around Westminster” about what ministers could offer to win support, including giving backbench MPs more of a say on whether the controversial “backstop” is adopted or not.

However, he added: “As things stand delivering parliamentary approval for the Brexit deal still appears a tall order.”

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Media captionThe SNP’s Ian Blackford says the Brexit deal denies Scottish rights

The Daily Telegraph reported that the EU could be prepared to discuss extending Article 50 – delaying Brexit until after 29 March – if the deal was rejected by MPs.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up Mrs May’s administration, has said it would support the government in a confidence motion if the deal was thrown out.

The backstop is designed to protect the Northern Ireland peace process by preventing the return of customs posts and checkpoints at the Irish border, in the event a future UK-EU trade deal was not agreed.

However, while it would keep the entire UK temporarily under EU customs rules, it would require some new checks on goods transported to Northern Ireland from Great Britain, which the DUP says is unacceptable.

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