Prime minister to meet EU leaders after delaying meaningful vote to forestall a crushing defeat
'Theresa May is to embark on a frantic round of European diplomacy in a final attempt to salvage her Brexit deal and her premiership after a chaotic day in which she pulled Tuesday’s scheduled meaningful vote in the face of overwhelming opposition.
The prime minister will meet the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Berlin on Tuesday to seek “further assurances” to ensure that the Northern Irish backstop would never come into force, although No 10 warned a rapid breakthrough was unlikely.
Downing Street said the vote could be delayed until January, reducing the time available to pass the necessary legislation to complete the UK’s departure – leading to growing concerns that a no-deal Brexit would result.
With more than 100 Conservative MPs lining up to vote against the Brexit deal, May made the humiliating admission to the Commons that “if we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow the deal would be rejected by a significant margin”.
The prime minister now hopes to secure an exchange of letters or side-declarations pledging that the backstop in the withdrawal agreement, which could keep the UK in an indefinite customs union, would be temporary and unlikely to come into force. However, Downing Street admitted that the document may not be legally binding, meaning it was not clear they would satisfy sceptical MPs, amid intense pressure from rebel Tories and the Democratic Unionist party to ditch the backstop.
Labour indicated it would table a vote of no confidence if May were to fail in her emergency negotiations, saying that if she returned without significant changes “she will have decisively and unquestionably lost the confidence of parliament”.'
Read more: Brexit: desperate May dashes to continent in search for concessions