Brexit: Let’s focus on the deal, May tells MPs

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Theresa May steps off her plane at Ezeiza International airport in Buenos Aires, on 29 November 2018.
Reuters

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The prime minister is to defend her deal at the G20 summit in Argentina

Theresa May has urged MPs to think about their constituents, rather than rejecting her deal for leaving the EU.

The PM, who was on her way to the G20 summit in Argentina, said her plan would protect the “jobs and livelihoods and security” of their constituents.

Mrs May urged MPs to concentrate on the deal she had negotiated with the EU.

And she accused Labour of advocating leaving without a deal by rejecting her Brexit compromise while not putting forward a “proper alternative”.

Labour argues a better agreement could still be negotiated with Brussels.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned against efforts to “frighten” people into backing what he called “a non-Brexit Brexit”.

‘Division and uncertainty’

Mrs May has been trying to persuade MPs to support the withdrawal deal she has negotiated with the European Union when it is put to a Commons vote on 11 December but it is widely expected that they will reject it.

Speaking to reporters on her flight to Buenos Aires, Mrs May insisted she had not given up hope of winning the vote, but said if MPs failed to back her it would mean “division and uncertainty” for Britain.

“We haven’t had the vote yet. Let’s focus on the deal that we have negotiated with the EU, a deal which is good for the UK and good for their constituents,” she said.

Mrs May said: “I think every MP needs to consider the importance of delivering on the Brexit vote together with the importance of doing that in a way that is good for their constituents.”

The prime minister said people she had met outside Westminster in the last few days had given her an “overwhelming” sense that they wanted MPs to back her deal.

She also rejected the idea of moving to a Norway-style deal with the EU – an idea that has been discussed privately by many MPs – saying such a deal would not end freedom of movement.

No clues over possible ‘Plan B’

By Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor

However many ways the question was put to Theresa May during a 20 minute press huddle on board the government’s Voyager plane, she was resolutely and determinedly not going to let much slip.

What will she do if she can’t get her vote through? Is there a plan B? Could there be a Norway-style relationship with the EU? Could there be another referendum?

Westminster’s awash with speculation and gossip about what might happen next if her Brexit compromise is killed off by her colleagues.

Read more from Laura

Asked about proposals for a TV debate over Brexit with Jeremy Corbyn, Mrs May said it was not an opportunity to recreate the referendum debate.

“This is a debate about looking ahead to the vote which is taking place on 11 December. I’ve got a plan. I’ve got a deal which delivers for the British people,” she said.

She said Labour wanted a general election, “and that means they are not acting in the national interest, they are putting their narrow party interests first”.

Full and active role

Mrs May is due to join US President Donald Trump, China’s President Xi Jinping and Japan’s Shinzo Abe as well as European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker at the two-day summit of the G20 group of leading economies.

She is expected to tell world leaders her Brexit deal negotiated with the EU will be good for the global economy.

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Media captionSo how does a G20 summit work?

Mrs May will highlight her plans to strike a free trade agreement with the EU.

But she will add: “For the first time in more than four decades, the UK will have an independent trade policy.

“We will play a full and active role on trade on the global stage, working with friends new and old, at a time of unprecedented global inter-connectedness.”

The summit comes after President Trump suggested that the negotiated deal could threaten any future US-UK trade deal.

Mrs May is the first serving UK prime minister to visit the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, and the second to travel to the country, after Tony Blair in 2001.

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The Falkland Islands – still claimed by Argentina, 36 years after the 1982 war with Britain – is likely to be discussed at a meeting Mrs May has with the country’s president, Mauricio Macri, during the gathering, although the main focus of their talks will trade.

Mrs May said: “I am clear that our position on the sovereignty of the Falklands has not changed. What has changed in recent months is we have seen better relations with Argentina.”

‘Crisis in trust’

In the UK, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is to defend Mrs May’s deal, saying that while it will not please everyone, critics “are yet to face up to” the “tough choices” she had to make.

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Mr Fox will promote Mrs May’s Brexit deal in his speech

In a speech at the Portbury Royal Docks, near Bristol, Mr Fox, who campaigned for Brexit, will also play down reports suggesting that UK economic growth after Brexit would be slower than if the UK stayed in the EU.

In his Daily Telegraph article, Mr Rees-Mogg says a “crisis in trust” in British institutions has been made worse by Brexit.

Referring to the downbeat economic scenarios issued by the Bank of England on the impact of leaving the EU, he said its governor, Mark Carney “warns constantly about Brexit” and was in danger of ruining its credibility.

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