UK Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that a rejection of her Brexit deal could mean Britain “may never leave” the EU at all.
She urged the EU to compromise in their negotiations only 21 days before Britain is set to leave the bloc.
The Prime Minister is desperately trying to convince the EU to agree legally binding changes to the controversial Irish backstop, which would prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
MPs are set for a number of crucial votes next week including whether to support Mrs May’s Brexit plan or to push back the date the UK leaves the EU if parliament rejects her deal – as they did in January by a record majority of 230.
Many MPs want to delay the date the UK exits the EU, currently March 29, to reduce the possibility of a potentially disastrous no-deal Brexit. Mrs May warned on Friday that more months of negotiations could lead to a “divisive” second referendum.
“Next week MPs in Westminster face a crucial choice: whether to back the Brexit deal or to reject it. Back it and the UK will leave the European Union. Reject it and no one knows what will happen.
“We may not leave the EU for many months, we may leave without the protections that the deal provides. We may never leave at all.”
The EU has so far refused to budge on the backstop, insisting it has already compromised as much as it could.
“We are both participants in this process. It is in the European interest for the UK to leave with a deal,” Mrs May said in a speech in Grimsby.
“We are working with them but the decisions that the European Union makes over the next few days will have a big impact on the outcome of the vote,” she added.
There is little belief that Mrs May’s deal in its current form will pass through parliament and opposition leader Jeremy said his Labour party would reject the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan on Tuesday.
“We will not be supporting her deal next Tuesday – we will be voting to take no-deal off the table and we will once again be putting our proposals – our five pillars – which are a customs union, market access and protection of rights in this country that have been obtained through the EU,” he said on Friday.
EU leaders have stood united in the face of Britain’s attempt to renegotiate a deal. Mrs May is under immense pressure from the Brexiteer faction within her party to ensure Britain is not permanently trapped in the backstop, which would mean keeping the country in a customs union with the EU.
“What was agreed was already a compromise. They have failed to secure ratification of this so it should be a question of what they are now willing to offer us,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told journalists in Dublin.
“We have received no offer from them as to what they would give us in return for any changes,” he said.
The EU has said discussions with the UK government remain ongoing. Mrs May is not expected to fly to Brussels this weekend.