Theresa May has urged MPs to vote as “democrats and patriots” as part of a desperate effort to get her twice-rejected Brexit deal approved by parliament.
It comes as ministers continue efforts to win the backing of the DUP, and more Tory Brexiteers indicate they may be prepared to reluctantly vote for Mrs May’s deal next week.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the prime minister called on politicians to look beyond the categories of Leave and Remain and “resolve this question now”.
“The time to define ourselves by how we voted in 2016 must end now. We can only put those old labels aside if we stand together as democrats and patriots, pragmatically making the honourable compromises necessary to heal division and move forward,” she wrote.
Having suffered another substantial parliamentary loss in the second meaningful vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement last Tuesday, Mrs May is expected to bring the deal back to the Commons for a third time on Tuesday next week.
Setting out the possible consequences of that vote, the prime minister re-iterated her claim that failure to back the deal could mean the UK would “not leave the EU for many months, if ever”.
“EU leaders would require a clear purpose for any extension that was not merely technical. If the proposal were to go back to square one and negotiate a new deal, that would mean a much longer extension – almost certainly requiring the United Kingdom to participate in the European Parliament elections in May,” she wrote.
“The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears thinking about. There could be no more potent symbol of Parliament’s collective political failure,” Mrs May added.
In the second meaningful vote last week a number of previous Tory rebels, including the former Brexit secretary David Davis, switched their position and backed the prime minister’s deal.
There are growing indications more eurosceptics could reluctantly follow suit if the vote is brought once again next week.
Backbenchers James Gray and Daniel Kawczynski both said on Saturday that they would now be backing the deal, despite reservations, out of fear that Brexit could be lost if they did not.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, former cabinet Minister Esther McVey has also said she will now “hold her nose” and support Mrs May.
Meanwhile, talks between ministers and the DUP have continued over the weekend, as efforts intensify to secure the backing of the party’s 10 MPs.
However, a DUP spokesman has rejected suggestions a “cash” deal is being negotiated in exchange for their support.
“We are in discussions with the government to ensure Northern Ireland is not separated out from the rest of the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union,” a DUP spokesman said.
“Contrary to some reports we are not discussing cash. There are still issues to be addressed in our discussions”, the statement concluded.
Speculation around the potential for money be offered grew after it emerged the Chancellor Philip Hammond was present during talks in the Cabinet Office on Friday.
In the aftermath of the 2017 general election, a confidence and supply agreement was signed between the DUP and the government to provide Mrs May with a working majority in parliament.
As part of that agreement the government provided around £1bn of investment in Northern Ireland. The two-year confidence and supply agreement is due to expire later this year.
Speaking to Sky News, shadow chancellor John McDonnell warned the government against offering a “bung” in exchange for the DUP’s votes on Brexit.
“If there’s any hint or indication that Philip Hammond is offering the DUP more money, another bung for their votes… I warn them that they will undermine confidence not just in our Brexit negotiations but in our political system overall,” said Mr McDonnell