Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday convened her cabinet and updated parliament on her newly-agreed Brexit deal, as the embattled British leader tries to sell the maligned plan to a sceptical country.
May returns to Westminster after sealing the agreement with EU leaders at a summit on Sunday in Brussels, where both sides insisted this was the best and only option available.
But she faces a big battle to win MPs’ approval ahead of a vote next month, with lawmakers from all parties opposed.
“We can back this deal, deliver on the vote of the referendum and move on to building a brighter future,” May told the House of Commons.
“Or this house can choose to reject this deal and go back to square one.
“It would open the door to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail,” she warned.
The agreement sealed on Sunday prepares for Britain’s smooth exit from the EU on March 29 next year and sets out a vision for “as close as possible a partnership” afterwards.
It covers financial matters, citizens’ rights, provisions to keep open Britain’s border with Ireland and arrangements for a 21-month post-Brexit transition phase.
The lengthy, legally enforceable divorce deal is accompanied by a short political declaration setting out hopes for future ties, including security, trade and migration.
Until it is approved by parliaments in Britain and Strasbourg, all sides are still planning for the potentially disastrous possibility of Britain quitting the EU with no new arrangements in place.
A European source said May herself acknowledged in Brussels on Sunday that she did not currently have a majority in parliament to pass her plan.
The prime minister vowed to warn her rebellious MPs that at least half could lose their seats at the next election if they fail to deliver her Brexit deal, the source said.
She will now embark on an intensive nationwide campaign promoting the plan – and the dangers of no-deal – ahead of the vote by lawmakers on or around December 12.
But arch-Brexiters despise the agreement, arguing it keeps Britain too closely aligned with the bloc.
Meanwhile more than 80 Tory MPs have declared publicly that they intend to vote against it.