Theresa May’s first Brexit deal suffered a 230-vote defeat in the Commons on January 15, despite the Prime Minister negotiating with the EU for more than two years. She has now set a deadline for MPs to vote on her revised deal by Tuesday, March 12. Geoffrey Cox, attorney general, visited Brussels this week in a last ditch attempt to secure a deal – but fears Mrs May is losing control remain firm.
Mr Cox has been hoping to secure legal guarantees that the backstop will only be temporary, to ensure there is still an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Concerns over the UK being tied to the EU indefinitely due to the backstop was one of the main reasons the original Brexit deal was rejected.
But Downing Street insiders have warned if Mr Cox is unable to secure these changes, Mrs May could see a second defeat next week.
One aide to the Prime Minister said to the FT: “If we lose the vote on March 12, we lose control.”
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier reportedly complained that Mr Cox had produced “a legal solution to a political problem”.
France’s Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau added they were still waiting for a “sustainable proposal” from the British side.
Mr Cox has since said the talks will “almost certainly” continue this weekend.
Ideally, the Government needs an agreement by Sunday night at the latest.
This is because any new documentation relating to the deal can be published by Monday – the day before the vote.
Number 10 is said to be optimistic that a deal can be reached by Sunday night.
Mrs May will be travelling to Brussels on Monday morning to meet Mr Juncker, to try and prevent things spiralling out of control on Tuesday.
At the moment, the EU has made proposals that do not suit UK demands.
Mrs May will also be making a speech in the pro-Leave town of Grimsby.
She will say: “Just as MPs will face a big choice next week, the EU has a choice to make too.
“We are both participants in this process. It is in the EU’s interest for the UK to leave with a deal.”
If MPs vote down the deal, they will be presented with another vote on Wednesday on whether Britain should leave without a deal.
If they say no, another vote could be held on Thursday about whether Article 50 should be extended.
This will mean the exit date is delayed to allow more time for negotiations.
But even if MPs want a delay, the EU will still have to approve this decision first.
MPs will vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal on March 12 – with further votes expect on March 13 and 14 if it falls through.
Bookies have set odds at 1/2 that Mrs May will leave Number Ten this year.
Coral’s Harry Aitkenhead said: “The future looks bleak for Theresa May according to our betting and not only is she odds on to be replaced as Prime Minister this year, she is the clear favourite to be the next Cabinet Minister to depart and it looks like her colleagues will outstay her.”