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Brexiteer MPs could vote for May's deal to ensure Brexit date isn't extended
KEY developments in the British cabinet could cause Brexit MPs to vote for an adjusted UK Withdrawal Deal from the European Union (EU).
The vote would have taken place on Wednesday but British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday delayed the vote, promising however that it would happen by March 12. She said that further meetings in Brussels on securing changes to the deal ruled out a meaningful vote in parliament this week.
Business Secretary Greg Clark, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Justice Secretary David Gauke had issued a warning to Tory Brexiteers that Parliament will prevent them forcing a "disastrous" no-deal break with the EU.
They strongly believe that some 100 Tory MPs, who are in the extreme Brexit wing of the party, have to support Mrs May's adjusted deal.
If they don't, the ministers and several other cabinet colleagues and MPs will support moves to delay the March 29 Brexit date. So far, Mrs May has been against any delay, so she is encountering a potential cabinet revolt.
During the past week, Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, and Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, met Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator in Brussels.
They presented a draft "legal codicil" relating to the Irish backstop. This is the effective insurance deal that would keep open the borders between EU member nation, Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.
The legal text is designed to ensure that there is a time-limit on the Irish backstop - the plan which would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU to prevent a hard border.
The withdrawal accord was originally rejected because Tory MPs feared that the backstop would last indefinitely.
Over the weekend, Mrs May had discussions with EU leaders and European Council president Donald Tusk at a summit of EU and Arab heads of state in the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheik. The aim was to obtain acceptance of the backstop codicil.
The ministers fear that the Brexit wing of the party may still vote down an altered deal and that there would then be a risk that the UK could crash out of the EU, causing a potential recession and disruption.
The Daily Mail reported that the three ministers wrote that "it is time that MPs recognised the need to get a deal, accepted that this is the only deal on offer, and supported it".
"Once the deal is passed, the benefits will be felt nationally. Optimism will surge, relief will be palpable. Too many of our parliamentary colleagues appear complacent about the consequences of leaving the EU without a deal," they warned.
"Our economy will be damaged severely both in the short and long term. Costs will increase, businesses that rely on just-in-time supply chains will be severely disrupted, and investment will be discouraged.
"Obviously, trade with the EU will become harder but so will trade with important non-EU economies, such as Japan and South Korea, with whom we currently trade with the benefit of free trade agreements available for EU members.
"Far from Brexit resulting in a newly independent United Kingdom stepping boldly into the wider world, crashing out on March 29 would see us poorer, less secure and potentially splitting up. It would be truly remarkable if this was as a consequence of Conservative MPs voting down the deal."
The ministers had added that if there wasn't a parliamentary breakthrough in the next few days, Parliament would "seek to extend Article 50 and delay our date of departure rather than crash out".
"If that happens, (Brexiteer MPs) will have no one to blame but themselves for delaying Brexit".
Anna Soubry, who quit the Conservatives to join an independent group of MPs who support another EU referendum, said the ministers' Daily Mail article illustrated that the cabinet was "deeply divided".