Tory MPs have savaged the “horror” of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, as the Prime Minister said the British people now wanted to “move on”.
On Thursday morning the UK and EU agreed a draft political declaration on what their future post-Brexit trade relationship might look like.
But Tory backbenchers are more concerned about the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement which governs the UK’s exit from the EU.
Blogging for HuffPost UK, ex-Brexit secretary David Davis described the PM’s deal as a “capitulation” and warned Tories they risked “sleepwalking into electoral defeat” if it is passed.
Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, May said: “The British people want Brexit to be settled, they want a good deal that sets us on a course for a brighter future, and they want us to come together as a country and to move on to focus on the big issues at home, like our NHS.
“The deal that will enable us to do this is now within our grasp. In these crucial 72 hours ahead, I will do everything possible to deliver it for the British people.”
The Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration are set to be rubber-stamped at an emergency EU summit on Sunday.
But May has so far failed to convince a sizeable chunk of her own party to vote for the deal with it comes to the Commons.
Owen Paterson, the former Environment Secretary, demanded the “horror” of the Northern Ireland backstop be removed from the agreement.
Iain Duncan Smith, the former party leader, demanded May “strip out” the backstop from the deal.
In a blow to the PM, both men savaged the deal despite having been singled out for praise by May just moments earlier.
The backstop is the fallback position that will effectively keep the UK in the EU customs union if the two sides fail to agree a free trade agreement that supersedes it.
It is designed to prevent the need for border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Critics fear if the backstop is triggered it will become permanent, preventing the UK from negotiating its own trade deals as the EU has a veto over whether to end it.
Boris Johnson said the UK should “junk” the backstop which he said made “a complete nonsense of Brexit”.
“Nothing in this political declaration changes the hard reality of the Withdrawal Agreement which gives the EU a continuing veto other the unilateral power of the entire UK to do free trade deal or to take back control of our laws,” he said.
A No.10 spokesman said that the Cabinet had already given its approval for the political declaration on Tuesday, but the PM held a conference call on Thursday updating them with the latest final version.
“The PM had a conference call with Cabinet ministers and she received strong support for the document that has been negotiated, that is true both for the agreement as a whole and in specific areas of ministerial responsibility,” he said.
But Dominic Raab, who quit as Brexit Secretary over the agreement, said: “The top reason people voted to leave the EU was to take back democratic control of our laws.” He added: “This deal gives even more away.
May also came under fire from pro-Remain Conservative MPs. Justine Greening, the former education secretary, and Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General, demanded the public be given a referendum on the Prime Minister’s deal.
Jeremy Corbyn again confirmed he intended to order his MPs to vote against the deal and dismissed the political declaration as “waffle”.
The draft declaration was agreed in principle on Thursday morning, after negotiators worked through the night on new directions issued by May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker when they met in the Belgian capital on Wednesday evening.
The new text calls for an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership” covering trade, law enforcement, foreign policy, security and defence.