Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May has urged MPs to back her Brexit agreement with the European Union in a New Year’s message.
Passing the deal into law would allow the United Kingdom to ‘turn a corner’ and put a disruptive period of political turmoil behind it, May said in a video message released on Tuesday.
Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, with a parliamentary vote on the withdrawal agreement scheduled to take place in the House of Commons during the week of January 14.
But fears are growing that Britain may crash out without a deal in place as MPs, including some from within May’s own Conservative Party, have refused to back her deal.
The prime minister used her videotaped message to put pressure on politicians to support the withdrawal agreement, saying there was a chance to make 2019 ‘the year we put our differences aside and move forward together.
‘The Brexit deal I have negotiated delivers on the vote of the British people, and in the next few weeks MPs will have an important decision to make,’ May said.
May’s speech came hours after Ireland’s foreign minister announced that Dublin had received approximately 183,000 applications for Irish passports from British citizens in 2018.
Just under 85,000 applications came from residents of Northern Ireland, where citizens have a right to both passports.
The number of applications from mainland Britain – over 98,000 – represents an increase of 22 per cent compared with the previous year, according to the Irish government.
Northern Ireland will leave the EU with the rest of the United Kingdom, while the Republic of Ireland will remain in the bloc.
British citizens have not been alone in making contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit.
With the looming possibility that Britain will leave the EU without an agreement on trade and borders, the government signed three contracts with shipping providers worth STG108 million ($A196 million) for additional ferry crossings for freight shipments.
Britain’s Department for Transport signed contracts with France’s Brittany Ferries, Denmark’s DFDS and Britain’s Seaborne Freight. The deals have come under scrutiny, with the BBC reporting that Seaborne Freight had never run a ferry service before.
In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag at the weekend, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker demanded clarity on future relations and called on Britain to ‘get your act together’.
‘My appeal is this: Get your act together and then tell us what it is you want. Our proposed solutions have been on the table for months,’ Juncker said.