THE BACKSTAB Tory MPs fear Theresa May has gone back on promise to AXE Irish backstop

Brexiteers have claimed the PM appears no longer willing to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU

04 February 2019 - 08:59

THERESA MAY was facing a bitter Brexit backlash last night as Tory MPs claimed she’s breaking her word on axing the Irish “backstop”.

A fragile truce with hardline Eurosceptics shattered as they said the PM appeared to no longer be willing to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU to secure a Brexit deal.

They claimed insiders had told them No.10 is instead likely to push for a “joint interpretative letter” that will allow the PM and Attorney General to claim the backstop will be time-limited or temporary.

Hardline Tory Steve Baker said such a move would immediately lose the PM the support of at least 50 of the Eurosceptic MPs who handed her a rare Commons victory just last week.

It came as Home Secretary Sajid Javid piled the pressure on No.10 by signalling a backstop wasn’t needed to prevent a hard border in Ireland – as existing technology was available to avoid the return of customs posts.

Opening a Cabinet rift with ‘Remain’ Ministers, he said all that was needed was “goodwill on the EU side” to get a deal done.

HARDLINE BREXITEERS

Just hours earlier, the PM had called for MPs to “stand together” and said she was ready to “battle for Britain” to get a better Brexit deal.

The backstop was drawn up by the UK and EU as a way of avoiding a hard border if a free trade deal cannot be agreed. It would bind the UK and Northern Ireland to EU customs rules while a deal is thrashed out.

Hardline Brexiteers want the PM to adopt a ‘Plan C’ proposed by Tory MP Kit Malthouse which calls for the UK to use “alternative arrangements” such as technology to avoid a hard border.

Downing Street last night said it was setting up a working group with officials and MPs backing the Malthouse Plan including Steve Baker and former ‘Remain’ campaigner Nicky Morgan to study the suggestion.

Separately, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will study the legal changes “we are aiming to secure to the backstop”. The work will take place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with the PM then expected to either head to Brussels or speak to the EU to lay out her wish-list.

Mrs May has been forced to go back to the drawing board after seeing her Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes in the Commons last month.

In a rare boost last week, she defeated plans to delay Brexit by months as Eurosceptics rallied behind her.

Government sources last night insisted Mrs May was still prepared to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.

But one Brexit backing MP said: “No.10 is setting us up to fail. They want as little Brexit as possible.”

 Steve Baker said the move would lose the PM the support of at least 50 of the Eurosceptic MPs
Reuters
Steve Baker said the move would lose the PM the support of at least 50 of the Eurosceptic MPs
 Brexiteers claim the PM is no longer willing to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement
Getty Images - Getty
Brexiteers claim the PM is no longer willing to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement

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