By GRAHAME ANDERSON

As Theresa May gears up for another crucial week in Westminster a new poll has shown more than half of Conservative Party members prefer a no-deal withdrawal.

Given a three-way choice 57 per cent of Tories at grassroots said they would back  leaving the EU without an agreement. Only 23 per cent would get behind the PM’s deal with 15  per cent happy to remain. Some five per cent had no preference.

According to a YouGov poll funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, a two-way referendum would see 29 per cent of Tory members fully supporting their leaders stance, with 64 per cent opting for a no-deal Brexit.

These figures do little to encourage the Prime Minister at a time when she was hoping for fresh support, as crunch day in the commons gets ever nearer. MPs are to begin debating the proposals again next Wednesday with a vote pencilled in for the following week.

After a meeting yesterday with DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, Mrs May was left in no doubt his parties opposition to the Irish backstop proposals remains firmly in place. The move is aimed at preventing a hard border in Ireland by ensuring the UK abides by EU customs rules if a trade deal isn’t agreed by the end of a Brexit transition period.

Mr Dodds said: “The Withdrawal Agreement, as currently proposed, flies in the face of the Government’s commitments on Northern Ireland as we leave the EU.”

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar added through the Press Association:  “We’re happy to offer reassurances and guarantees to the UK, but not reassurances and guarantees that contradict or change what was agreed back in November.”

Asian Sunday has learned the Irish leader had spoken to German chancellor Angela Merkel by telephone on Thursday and the two leaders agreed to “stand by” the Brexit deal. No further official meetings have been planned as EU officials continue to claim negotiations have concluded. Regardless, a determined Mrs May is still continuing to press European leaders for extra leeway on the backstop in the hope she can gather more support at home.

As we enter the second week of January however, it seems the withdrawal agreement is still heading for a huge defeat, and Britain remains on course to crisis. The first month of 2019 seems certain to be a defining period for us all.