Jeremy Corbyn has warned that Theresa May has “completely and utterly failed” to ease MPs’ concerns about her Brexit deal.
The Labour leader added that MPs would “not be fooled” by last-ditch assurances over the Irish border and said letters from the EU and the Prime Minister were “nothing more than a repetition of exactly the same position that was pulled more than one month ago”.
His remarks came after Mrs May updated the Commons and urged MPs to back her “compromise” Withdrawal Agreement or risk being viewed as having “let the British people down”.
But Mr Corbyn said of the latest EU letter: “It categorically does not give the legal assurances this House was promised and contains nothing but warm words and aspirations.
“The truth remains that by the end of 2020 the UK will face a choice of either extending the transition period, which comes at an unknown financial cost, or we will fall into the backstop which the Attorney General said endures indefinitely until such time as an agreement supersedes it.
“Given the Prime Minister has failed to secure the promised changes, there can be no question of once again ducking accountability and avoiding tomorrow’s vote.
“No more playing for time, no more running down the clock to scare people into backing this damaging shambles of a deal.
“I’m sure members across the House will not be fooled by what has been produced today. It’s clear what we are voting on this week is exactly the same deal we should have voted on in December.”
Mr Corbyn later reiterated his demand for a general election if the deal is rejected, which prompted Mrs May to reply: “Here I think we saw yesterday that (Mr Corbyn) isn’t thinking about the national interest, he is merely playing politics – because yesterday, when asked whether there was a general election he would actually campaign to leave the European Union, he refused to answer that question five times.
“We know where we stand – we’re leaving the European Union and this Government will deliver it.”
Mrs May later said she “did not believe the date of March 29 should be delayed” after Conservative former minister Ken Clarke said the Brexit date should be pushed back.
DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds dismissed the PM’s update to the Irish backstop, asking her to “admit that nothing has fundamentally changed”.
MPs later resumed debate on the deal, with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox insisting the 2016 referendum was a “contract” with the British people that needed to be honoured.
He said: “For Parliament to attempt in any way to thwart or block Brexit by any means would be an act of vanity and self indulgence that would create a breach of trust between Parliament and the people, with potentially unknowable consequences.
“Eighty per cent of the members of this House were elected on manifesto that said they would honour the result of the referendum and we have a duty to do so if we are to keep faith with our voters.”
Dr Fox went on to outline how the UK had experienced “32 consecutive months of exports growth” since the referendum.
He also described Labour’s Brexit position as a “total shambles” and dismissed the notion that they could implement their “fantasy policy proposals” in the days remaining before exit day.
The Cabinet minister also rejected a Norway-style deal with the EU, saying: “Having spoken to a number of my colleagues in Norway, their advice was to retain the ability to have our own free trade agreement and not restrict our freedom in the way that they actually have.”
For Labour, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said: “It’s a deal that members on all sides now believe is not in the best interests of our country and I know the Prime Minister is now reaching out to her rather unlikely new-found friends in Unite and GMB and even to members across the House, but colleagues will recognise that this is a paradigm of too little too late.”
Tory Brexiteer Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) said he was considering voting for the deal to frustrate Remainers, even though he disliked the deal and believed the UK could be stuck in a “toxic limbo”.
Former party leader Iain Duncan Smith said MPs should vote down Mrs May’s deal to help her get a better deal from the EU.
He said: “I just believe this is how the EU works, they got everything they wanted first time round and the reality is they know we’re not going to take this.”