BUENOS AIRES • British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is focused on persuading lawmakers to back her Brexit deal during a vote in Parliament on Dec 11 rather than preparing a plan B.
Mrs May secured an agreement with European Union leaders on Sunday that will see Britain leave the bloc on March 29 but with continued close trade ties. However, the odds look stacked against her getting the deal through a deeply divided British Parliament.
The deal has been criticised by both eurosceptics and europhiles among her own Conservative Party lawmakers. Opposition parties and the small Northern Irish party which props up Mrs May's minority government have said they plan to vote against it.
"The focus of myself and the government is on the vote that is taking place on Dec 11. We will be explaining to Members of Parliament why we believe that this is a good deal for the UK," Mrs May told reporters on Thursday on the plane to the Group of 20 summit in Argentina when asked if she had a back-up plan.
"I ask every Member of Parliament to think about delivering on the Brexit vote and doing it in a way that is in the national interest and doing it in a way that is in the interests of their constituents because it protects jobs and livelihoods."
Mrs May has said that if lawmakers reject the agreement it could see the world's fifth-largest economy leaving the bloc without a deal, or not leaving at all.
Asked which of those two options was more likely if her deal does not pass, she said: "We haven't had the vote yet. Let's focus on the deal that we have negotiated with the European Union."
On Wednesday, the Bank of England warned Britain risked suffering an even bigger hit to its economy than during the global financial crisis 10 years ago if it leaves the EU in the worst-case, no-deal Brexit scenario.
Mrs May said if her plan was voted down, the government and businesses would have to make decisions about implementing preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
Parliament will begin five days of debate on Dec 4, with the final vote due to be held on Dec 11. A cross-party group of senior lawmakers has put forward an amendment to block Mrs May's EU withdrawal deal and to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
"It opposes the deal, rejects a no-deal Brexit... and would enable the House (of Commons) to express its view about what should happen next if the PM's deal is defeated," Mr Hilary Benn, chairman of Parliament's Brexit committee, wrote on Twitter.
Lawmakers who back a clean break with the EU hope that if the deal is rejected, Mrs May will go back to Brussels to seek further concessions. The EU has made clear there is little appetite to reopen negotiations.
Pro-EU politicians hope rejection of the deal will pave the way for a second referendum.
Mrs May has said that if the agreement is rejected by Parliament it would lead to greater division and uncertainty.
Trade Minister Liam Fox said Mrs May's attempts to win over public support by touring the country to sell her deal was working.
"The Prime Minister has been changing the public mood, if you look at what's been happening in polling there's clearly a shift there," Mr Fox said. "Members of Parliament need to make their own decisions for themselves but they have to compare this particular deal against the alternatives."
Asked about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Fox said: "It wouldn't be a disaster but it wouldn't be a walk in the park either."