Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected Thursday by a string of senior Tory MPs in the Commons as it emerged that half of her backbenchers could vote against it.
The Prime Minister was told by MPs, including Boris Johnson, to “junk” her backstop plan for keeping the Irish border open, which he said “makes a complete nonsense of Brexit”.
May attempted to rally her MPs after signing off a 26-page future relationship agreement with the EU that commits both sides to an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership,” but in the Commons the agreement was attacked by Remainers and Brexiteers.
A total of 87 Tory MPs are now publicly opposed to the deal, meaning half of May’s backbenchers could vote against her plan in the Commons.
One Cabinet minister told The Daily Telegraph that they feared it now had “zero” chance of getting through the critical vote next month.
The Prime Minister had to endure nearly 40 minutes of Commons debate before a single supportive intervention from an MP, amid accusations that her deal was a “complete surrender.”
In her address May singled out Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, and Owen Paterson, a former Northern Ireland Secretary, for praise after they proposed using technology in place of the backstop.
However Duncan Smith warned: “None of this is at all workable unless we get the Withdrawal Agreement now amended so that any arrangements we make strip out that backstop”, and Paterson said that the backstop meant the “horror of Northern Ireland being split off under a different regime.” The DUP also made clear that the backstop must be scrapped if its 10 MPs were to support the deal.