Theresa May send ministers across the country to drum up Brexit deal support
Theresa May is deploying her dwindling band of loyal ministers across the country today, in a bid to shore up support for her Brexit deal.
The chancellor, health secretary and Brexit secretary are among those being dispatched, ostensibly to talk to local employers and businesses about the benefits of the agreement.
The reality is that their presence in local constituencies is designed to put pressure on backbenchers to come onside.
Mrs May said: “We have delivered a deal that honours the vote of the British people.
“I’ve been speaking to factory workers in Scotland, farmers in Wales and people right across the country, answering their questions about the deal and our future.
“Overwhelmingly, the message I’ve heard is that people want us to get on with it.
“And that’s why it’s important that ministers are out speaking with communities across the UK today about how the deal works for them.”
About 90 Conservatives are, at the moment, expected to rebel when MPs vote on the deal next Tuesday.
Those loyal to the prime minister have urged her to delay the vote, arguing that, at the moment, it is unwinnable.
Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the influential 1922 committee of Tory MPs, said most people wanted to “see this process moving forward”.
But he admitted: “I don’t think there’s any point in ploughing ahead and losing the vote heavily.”
Sky News understands Mrs May would struggle to delay the vote because the debate leading up to it has already started – meaning she would need to win another vote adding an amendment to push it back.
Meanwhile supporters of the beleaguered PM published a plan to reduce the chances of the Northern Ireland backstop coming into force – in the hope it would help the deal pass in parliament.
As it stands, the backstop would see some customs treated differently in Northern Ireland as in Great Britain.
Led by Hugo Swire, the alternative plan would give MPs the chance to vote to extend the transition period at the end of 2022 – rather than falling into the backstop.
To have any chance it would have to be one of six amendments selected by the Commons speaker on Tuesday morning if it is to be debated.
However, it has already been rejected by Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, which is propping up Mrs May’s government.
“Domestic legislative tinkering won’t cut it,” she wrote on Twitter.
“The legally binding international withdrawal treaty would remain fundamentally flawed as evidenced by the attorney general’s legal advice.”