Jeremy Corbyn has been told voting against Theresa May’s Brexit deal risks forcing a “no deal” exit.
As the crucial Commons vote on any agreement nears it has become increasingly clear that Theresa May could have to rely on Labour MPs to get her deal through parliament.
Hardline Tory Brexiteers, angry at the government for proposing a Brexit plan that they believe keeps the UK tied too closely to the EU, have said they will not back her.
Corbyn has all but confirmed he will tell his MPs to vote against the government.
Losing the vote could be fatal for May’s leadership and Labour hope it would force an early general election.
But several backbenchers are reported to be considering defying the order. Caroline Flint told Sky News on Sunday morning she would be likely to vote in favour of any “reasonable deal”.
And she hit out at other Labour figures for suggesting backing the PM would always be the wrong decision.
According to The Independent, at least 15 Labour MPs could decide to vote in favour of May’s Brexit deal.
Labour MP Ruth Smeeth told paper: “If the option is voting for the deal or voting for something that would mean no deal – well, I’m not prepared to vote for no-deal.”
Research by the Edelman public affairs consultancy has suggested May will need least 14 Labour MPs to support her Brexit plans to win the vote.
Worryingly for May, she will need at least 24 Labour MPs if the DUP decides to ditch its support for her government.
DUP leader Arlene Foster has indicated her party was “ready for a no-deal scenario, which she now believed was the likeliest one”.
The febrile atmosphere in Westminster comes as negotiators in Brussels attempt to reach a deal on the withdrawal agreement.
The issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is one of the last remaining obstacles to achieving a divorce deal, with wrangling continuing over the nature of a “backstop” to keep the frontier open if a wider UK-EU trade arrangement cannot resolve it.
The EU’s version of the backstop, which would see just Northern Ireland remain aligned with Brussels’ rules, has been called unacceptable by May and is loathed by the DUP.
May’s counter-proposal is for a “temporary customs arrangement” for the whole UK, but Tory Brexiteers fear this becoming an open-ended position which would prevent free trade deals with countries around the world.