Theresa May’s “one last chance” Brexit offer appeared to be dead on arrival as Remainers, Leavers, the DUP and past Tory supporters of her exit deal lined up to dismiss it.
The prime minister put a vote on a second referendum at the heart of a ten-point plan designed to win over opponents from all political sides and pass her Brexit deal through the Commons.
But several Tories who backed her withdrawal agreement in the last vote immediately said they would reject it this time, declaring it “worse than before”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the arch Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG), revealed he would be switching back to opposition, stating: “The prime minister’s latest proposals are worse than before and would leave us bound deeply in to the EU. It is time to leave on WTO (no deal) terms.”
Speaking after a meeting of the ERG, Rees-Mogg said Eurosceptics were “united” in their opposition to the legislation and jokily suggested the only people left supporting it were “members of the Cabinet and the Downing Street cat”.
Asked if May should quit now, he said a “similar” defeat to the 230-vote hammering her Brexit deal took should make her exit “obvious”.
Zac Goldsmith backed him and called for May’s head, tweeting: “I supported the PM’s rotten deal last time as I felt we could then draw a line and select a new PM to pick up the pieces.
“But I cannot support this convoluted mess. That it takes us towards a rigged referendum between her deal and no Brexit is just grotesque.
“The PM must go.”
Among the ‘switchers’ who previously backed May’s deal was leadership contender Dominic Raab, who said the bill would be “the vehicle for a second referendum”.
And Tory Charlie Elphicke, reinstated to the party in December as May faced a vote of no confidence, added: “I supported the prime minister in March as I thought it was our last chance to leave the EU.
“That’s no longer the case and I’m afraid that this proposal is worse than before. This is not Brexit and I won’t be supporting it.”
Brexiteers who May would have been hoping to win over with a string of offers designed to calm fears that the Irish border backstop would ever come into force also rejected the deal.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said it would fail to “take back control over anything”.
He said: “The backstop is still there, it’s a customs union in all but name and it puts Brussels firmly in control of our destiny.
“There’s nothing new or bold about this bad buffet of non Brexit options. At a time when people are deserting the main parties this is the PM’s response, to do all she can to defy the result of the referendum. Today the government has moved from take back control to give back control.”
DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds, another key figure, said the deal still had the same “fatal flaws” as before.
“Many of the proposals on the backstop serve as an attempt through domestic law to mitigate a bad deal whereas the focus should be on getting a better deal,” he said.
“The only positive vote in the House of Commons on Brexit was the Brady amendment which called for alternative arrangements to the backstop to be implemented in the treaty and other changes to remove the current threats posed by the backstop.
“That still remains the best way forward to a stable majority in the House of Commons which would deliver Brexit and protect the union. That is what this or a new prime minister must address.
“We will have to await the publication of the text of the bill to see what the proposals actually mean but the fact is that the fatal flaws of the draft treaty remain.”
Senior Labour MP Margaret Beckett, a backer of the campaign for a so-called People’s Vote, said: “The prime minister’s last-ditch effort to force through her deal is no more likely to succeed than her previous attempts.
“Rejecting this hotchpotch offer will show once and for all there is no stable majority for any form of Brexit without handing the decision back to the British people.”
Change UK MP Chuka Umunna, another leading backer of a second referendum, rejected the offer and called on the government to stop Brexit entirely.
“We are so close to the October 31 deadline that revoking Article 50 is the only way out of this national emergency,” he said.
“Only Change UK is arguing for that course of action.
“Wasting weeks voting on a series of proposals we all know are doomed amounts to an abdication of responsibility from the two major parties - and a symbol of the broken political system which so badly needs fixing.”
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery told HuffPost UK that May’s offer was “not so bold and not so new”, adding: “It stinks of acute desperation and her being in the last chance saloon throwing her last dice. This offer makes little progress since the last one and is set to fail.”