THERESA May will try to force a second vote on her Brexit deal despite facing a catastrophic defeat on it, allies have revealed.
It has emerged that the PM has been given fresh hope of eventual success from a last minute offer of help from Angela Merkel.
She will tell her divided Cabinet when it meets for a fiery discussion on Plan B this morning that the German leader suggested the EU could grant extra concessions once the troubled agreement is shot down.
And that could include persuading Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to agree to an end date to the hated Irish backstop – which the DUP and dozens of Tory MPs have demanded as their price.
A senior Government figure said the PM and Mrs Merkel agreed there needs to be “a blood-letting moment” first.
Dubbing the pair’s phone call on Sunday morning as “very positive”, the source added: “Merkel believes there is more the EU can do once the vote is over as no deal would be a disaster for everyone, and they agreed to talk after it”.
Government whips were still predicting Mrs May’s deal will be defeated by a triple figure majority when the meaningful vote is held from 7pm.
The PM’s plan for a second vote on her deal will be bitterly opposed by Remain members of the Cabinet, such as Amber Rudd.
The Work and Pensions Secretary told allies she will instead call on the PM again to “reach across the House” for a different Brexit deal that carries Labour MPs’ support.
No10 fear it could still be the biggest defeat ever inflicted on a serving government, passing the current record of 166 set by the minority Labour government of 1924.
With just 73 days to go until Brexit itself takes place, the defeat will plunge British politics into its worse crisis since World War Two.
Loyal Tories were urging No10 to throw its weight behind a ‘kill amendment’ and torpedo their own deal in a bid to hide the devastating true scale of MPs’ opposition to it, amid fears a defeat of 200 could force the PM to resign.
‘IT IS NOT PERFECT, IT’S A COMPROMISE’
One is an amendment tabled by loyalist senior Tory Andrew Murrison, which makes Parliament’s approval of the deal dependent on the EU agreeing the backstop must end after 12 months, by December 31 2021.
Also on the eve of the momentous vote:
- Mrs May suffered a further blow as Euro chiefs refused her new plea to put an end date on the hated Irish backstop, leaving Brexiteer MPs to brand Brussels’ fresh assurances yesterday as “worthless”.
- A plot by senior backbench MPs for Parliament to seize control of Brexit from Theresa May is backed by Cabinet ministers, plotters claim.
- Tory MP Gareth Johnson resigned a Government whip so he could vote against Mrs May’s deal, taking the tally of the number who have quit her administration over Brexit to 13.
In a final meeting with all Tory MPs last night, the Prime Minister made a thinly veiled warning that the future of the party was at stake in today’s vote.
One in the room said the PM had “reflected on her 22 years in Parliament and how divisive the European issue had been for the party and the country”, urging her MPs to “think carefully about the longer term rather than the heat of tomorrow night”.
The PM also begged all MPs to “take a second look” at the deal, saying: “No it is not perfect. And yes it is a compromise”.
She added: “When the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this House tomorrow and ask: did we deliver on the country’s vote to leave the European Union?”
But she also angered Brexiteers by refusing to categorically rule out delaying Brexit yesterday despite repeated pleas to.
It also emerged last night that EU diplomats in Brussels have also began discussions about how to tweak the Political Declaration that accompanies the divorce deal to make it more palatable to MPs.
Leaders are also looking at calling a new emergency Brexit summit soon.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox became the first senior minister to admit the prospect of defeat, saying: “I think it’s unlikely we will win the vote tomorrow to be frank”.
Parliament will be besieged today by supporters and opponents of Brexit.
Hundreds of extra police have been drafted in to keep the peace as tensions soar.
The People’s Vote campaign will screen the debate and vote live from Parliament Square, which it has booked for the whole evening from 4pm.
Pro-second referendum MPs will also address the crowd.