Brexit

Theresa May tells MPs to 'hold their nerve' on Brexit

British prime minister Theresa May gives a statement about progress on Brexit talks to MPs in the the House of Commons, London 
Andrew Woodcock, Press Association

British prime minister Theresa May has called on MPs to "hold their nerve" and come together behind an EU withdrawal deal which will deliver Brexit on time on March 29.

Addressing the House of Commons a fortnight after MPs voted for her to go back to Brussels and replace the controversial Irish border backstop, Mrs May acknowledged that she would need "some time" to hold talks with the EU.

She said that a planned Commons debate on Thursday will be on an amendable motion reaffirming the House's decision on January 29 that it supported the British government's efforts to find an alternative for the backstop and recognising that talks are ongoing.

Mrs May pledged to return to Parliament on February 26, if no deal has been secured before that time, to report back on progress and trigger a further MPs' vote the following day.

"We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House requires and deliver Brexit on time," Mrs May told the Commons.

Read More: Westminster to prevent Theresa May from running down Brexit clock, says Keir Starmer

"By getting the changes we need to the backstop; by protecting and enhancing workers' rights and environmental protections; and by enhancing the role of Parliament in the next phase of negotiations I believe we can reach a deal that this House can support.

"We can deliver for the people and the communities that voted for change two-and-a-half years ago - and whose voices for too long have not been heard.

"We can honour the result of the referendum.

"And we can set this country on course for the bright future that every part of this United Kingdom deserves.

"That is this government's mission. We shall not stint in our efforts to fulfil it."

Read More: DUP letter urges unionists to prepare for border poll

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the PM of "running down the clock" in the hope that MPs will be "blackmailed" by the fear of a no-deal Brexit into supporting "a deeply flawed deal".

"This is an irresponsible act," said Mr Corbyn. "She is playing for time and playing with people's jobs, our economic security and the future of our industry."

Mr Corbyn accused Mrs May of refusing to listen to his alternative deal, involving permanent customs union membership, a close alignment with the single market and matching EU workplace and environmental protections.

"I urge all members across this House to think about the damage the prime minister's strategy is doing - the threat to industry and skilled jobs in communities across Britain," he said.

"Now is not the time to stand idly by, now is the time to stand up and do the right thing: to rule out no deal and back Labour's alternative plan."

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