Theresa May offers MPs a vote on the Brexit backstop in last ditch bid to save her deal

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  • Theresa May is struggling to stave off a landslide defeat of her Brexit deal in parliament next week.
  • In a last ditch bid to save her deal she offers MPs a vote on the controversial Brexit 'backstop'.
  • The backstop would keep Britain locked to EU trade and customs rules if it fails to secure an alternative deal with the EU at the end of the tw0-year transition.
  • May's offer would allow MPs to direct her to extend the transition period instead.

LONDON - Theresa May will offer MPs a vote on whether to trigger the so-called Brexit backstop, as she struggles to avoid a humiliating parliamentary defeat next Tuesday.

The prime minister said that Parliament could be given a choice whether to trigger a backstop or extend the Brexit transition period, if no deal on Britain's future relationship with the EU is found by the end of 2020.

Under the terms of the deal May has agreed in principle with the EU, Britain will be forced to remain tied to EU trade and customs rules if a deal is not reached by that point.

The backstop is hugely controversial among Conservative Brexiteers who believe it is part of an attempt to keep Britain indefinitely tied to the EU.

However, May said on Thursday that parliament could choose to avoid this scenario by instructing the government to extend the transition period instead.

"The backstop is not automatic. I'm looking at the role of Parliament in that choice," she told the Today programme.

She added that there were "pros and cons" to either option, saying that the backstop would not involve paying any more funds to the EU, whereas extending the transition would require an additional fee, plus accepting the continuation of freedom of movement with the EU.

May made the offer as Conservative whips fight to stave off what could be a defeat of historic proportions next week.

The prime minister has repeatedly fielded questions from concerned Conservative backbenchers both in private and in the Commons. However, all the signs are that opposition to her deal with the EU is refusing to budge.

Last night Conservative rebels met to discuss what to do should May's deal be defeated next week. Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who chairs the anti-EU European Research Group of backbenchers, told the group in parliament that the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May's government, had told him they would withdraw their support from May's government if the deal went through, but would retain it if it is defeated.

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