In a Commons statement, the Prime Minister hit back at her party critics by insisting that any power to lengthen the UK’s transition out of the EU would only be used as a last resort.
She also stepped up her attack on campaigners for a fresh EU referendum, accusing them of demanding a “politicians’ vote” to overturn the will of the people expressed in the 2016 decision to quit the bloc.
“Serving our national interest will demand that we hold our nerve through these last stages of the negotiations, the hardest part of all,” the Prime Minister told MPs.
“It will mean not giving in to those who want to stop Brexit with a politicians’ vote – politicians telling the people they got it wrong the first time and should try again.
“And it will mean focusing on the prize that lies before us: the great opportunities that we can open up for our country when we clear these final hurdles in the negotiations.”
Mrs May’s Commons statement about last week’s EU summit in Brussels followed anger among Euro-sceptic Tories at her latest attempt to compromise with Brussels in the search for a Brexit breakthrough.
At the gathering of EU leaders, the Prime Minister held talks about potentially extending the post-Brexit “implementation period” when the UK will remain closely tied to the bloc beyond the current end date of December 2020.
Defending the move, she told MPs the proposal was an “insurance policy”.
“If at the end of 2020 our future relationship was not quite ready – the proposal is that the UK would be able to make a sovereign choice between the UK-wide customs backstop or a short extension of the implementation period,” she said.
She added: “I have not committed to extending the implementation period.
“I do not want to extend the implementation period – and I do not believe that extending it will be necessary,” she said.
Mrs May told MPs that under her plans Britain will have fully cut ties by the time the next general election is due in 2022.
She also insisted that “95 per cent” of the expected withdrawal agreement being negotiated between the UK and the EU was completed with the row about the Irish border the “one sticking point left”.
“There are some limited circumstances in which it could be argued that an extension to the implementation period might be preferable if we were certain it was only for a short time,” she said.
“A short extension to the implementation period would mean only one set of changes for businesses at the point we move to the future relationship.
“But in any such scenario we would have to be out of this implementation period well before the end of this parliament.”
Tory backbenchers voiced anger at her plans in the Commons yesterday.
Brexit News: Theresa May is under fire from hardline Brexiteer backbenchers
Former Cabinet minister John Redwood claimed a longer transition period could add up to £20billion to the UK’s taxpayer-funded Brexit divorce fee.
He told the Prime Minister: “The economy has been slowed deliberately by a fiscal and monetary squeeze which we need to lift.
“We need tax cuts to raise people’s take-home pay so that they have more spending power.
“All this is possible if we don’t give £39 billion to the EU, and all this would be even more possible if we don’t pledge another £15 billion or £20 billion for some time never if we’re now going to give in yet again.
“So when will this Government stand up to the EU, when will it say it wants a free trade agreement and it doesn’t see the need to pay for it, and when will it rule out signing a withdrawal agreement – which is a surrender document which we cannot afford?”
John Whittingdale, another former Cabinet minister, asked if the Prime Minister appreciated “the frustration felt by many of my constituents and other that it is over two years since the referendum and that we have agreed that we will not regain control of our laws, borders and money for over four years after the referendum”.
He added: “Does she understand that for many of them and us it’s already too long?”
Mrs May’s call to arms followed a series of brutal barbs from unnamed Tory MPs demanding an end to her premiership over the weekend.
One unidentified MP suggested she should “bring her own noose” to a meeting of backbenchers while another said: “The moment is coming when the knife gets heated, stuck in her front and twisted. She’ll be dead soon.”
Brexit news: Theresa May updated the Commons on Brexit talks today
MPs on both sides of the Commons united to condemn the aggressive language used by the Prime Minister’s foes.
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker said those behind the brutal remarks had “thoroughly disgraced themselves”.
He said: “I very much hope that they are discovered and I hope that she will withdraw the whip from them.”
Yvette Cooper, Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, criticised the abuse as “violent, dehumanising and frankly misogynistic language”.
Former home secretary Amber Rudd hoped there would not be “any sort of language like that in the future”.
Mrs May told MPs: “I think it is incumbent on all of us in public life to be careful about the language we use, there are passionate beliefs and passionate views that are held on this subject and other subjects but whatever the subject is we should all be careful about our language.”
Earlier, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “I don’t intend to dignify those specific anonymous comments with a response.
“The Prime Minister has always been very clear that we must set a tone in public discourse that is neither dehumanising nor derogatory.
“Personal vitriol has no place in our politics.”
Brexit news: John Redwood has demanded Theresa May ‘stand up’ to Brussels
In exchanges following her statement, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the Government’s handling of Brexit as an “utter shambles”.
He said: “The Conservative Party has spent the last two years arguing with itself instead of negotiating a sensible deal in the public interest.
“Even at this crucial point they’re still bickering amongst themselves.
“This Government is terminally incompetent, hamstrung by its own divisions.”
Mrs May accused Mr Corbyn of “putting politics ahead of the national interest.”
She said: “Throughout all of this all we have seen from the Labour Party, from him, is playing politics with this issue.
“One minute they want to accept the referendum, the next they want a second referendum. One minute they want to say free movement will end, the next they say free movement is still on the table.
“He is doing everything he can to frustrate Brexit and trigger a general election.”
Source : EXPRESS