LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May has urged her Conservative Party MPs to shed their “personal preferences” over Brexit and united in the national interest ahead of a fresh round of talks with the European Union on the divorce deal next week.

Britain is set to exit the 28-member bloc on March 29, but May is struggling to persuade parliament to back a divorce deal.

In her letter to all 317 Conservative MPs over the weekend, May urged her party to sacrifice “personal preferences” as she attempts to get an agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU through Parliament.

She warned the Tories, who remain deeply divided over the contours of Brexit, that leaving the EU without a deal on the March 29 deadline “would cause disruption to our economy and to people’s daily lives, damaging jobs both at home and across the EU”.

“Instead, our party can do what it has done so often in the past; Move beyond what divides us and come together behind what unites us; Sacrifice if necessary our own personal preferences in the higher service of the national interest,” she added.

However, the letter was overshadowed by a series of leaked WhatsApp messages magnifying the divide that exists within the UK’s ruling party over the issue.

The messages, received by ‘The Sunday Times’ involve Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party’s 100-strong hard-Brexit European Research Group (ERG), telling colleagues that May’s Brexit negotiations with Brussels were a “complete waste of time”.

“What will it take for the PM to accept that we will not accept the ‘backstop’ in its current form,” Baker questioned, in reference to the back-up clause to prevent a hard border between EU member-country Ireland and the UK post-Brexit – which remains the biggest hurdle in the path to an amicable Withdrawal Agreement.

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With just 40 days to go until the UK is due to leave the EU, Opposition Labour remains equally divided over Brexit, with pro-Europe MPs furious that party leader Jeremy Corbyn is refusing to follow the party’s policy agreed last year – that Labour should seek a second referendum if it cannot force a General Election.

Meanwhile, campaigners for a second referendum on Brexit have said there will be a major protest the weekend before Britain’s scheduled departure date. The “Put It To The People” protest is planned in London on March 23, with supporters claiming a large turnout of people keen to have a final say over the issue.

“Come the final week of March there will be nowhere for any MP to hide, which is why this march could be of historic significance,” said prominent anti-Brexit Tory MP Anna Soubry.

“Brexit is already causing deep damage and this may very well be our last chance to demand the public have a say on the way forward before its too late,” added Green Party ex-leader Caroline Lucas.

The March 23 demonstration will begin at noon on London’s Park Lane, leading to a rally and speeches by supporters in Parliament Square. It will be staged the day after a crucial EU summit, potentially Theresa May’s last chance to secure concessions to avert a chaotic no-deal scenario if her own final deal fails to pass the House of Commons.



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