AFTER 20 months of negotiation it took the leaders of the 27 countries remaining in the European Union just 40 minutes to sign off on the Brexit deal.

Now Theresa May has just two and a half weeks to convince parliament to back her plan; but with at least 80 of her own backbenchers likely to rebel, and Labour, SNP, Lib-Dem and DUP MPs also unwilling to support the agreement, the chances of it passing are slim.

Speaking after the EU27 backed the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, May said she was not daunted by the near-impossible challenge, and promised to campaign with all her heart to convince MPs and the public.

She said:”Today marks the culmination of our exit negotiations with the EU. But it also marks the start of a crucial national debate in our country over the next few weeks.

“Before Christmas, MPs will vote on this deal. It will be one of the most significant votes that Parliament has held for many years. On it will depend whether we move forward together into a brighter future or open the door to yet more division or uncertainty.

“The British people don’t want to spend any more arguing about Brexit. They want a good deal done that fulfils the vote and allows us to come together again as a country.

“So I will take this deal back to the House of Commons, confident we have achieved the best deal available and full of optimism about the future of our country. In parliament and beyond it, I will make the case for this deal with all my heart and I look forward to that campaign.”

The Prime Minister is expected to visit Scotland as part of a nationwide charm offensive to “speak directly to the British people”.

May hopes that if she wins over the country, the pressure on MPs to back the deal will be hard to resist.

Asked repeatedly if she would resign if that campaign failed and the Commons rejected her deal, the Tory leader refused to be drawn, saying: “It’s not about me.”

Speaking earlier, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that the odds of the deal passing were “challenging”.

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “It’s not possible to rule out anything, and that’s why all of us have to do is say, what do your constituents actually want in this situation, and we have to work out what’s in the national interest, and it’s all about the balance of risks.

“This isn’t a perfect deal for everyone, but does have a lot of what everyone wants.”

May’s Cabinet is split on Brexit, with news yesterday that Chancellor Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, David Gauke, Greg Clark and David Lidington, May’s de facto deputy, are threatening to resign if defeat on the meaningful vote leads to a push for a hard-Brexit.

One source close to Hammond told the Mail on Sunday: “Philip would feel that the damage this would do to the country would be just too great. He wouldn’t want to be part of implementing this. Philip would say: ‘I have done my bit to avoid it’.”

Meanwhile, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker cautioned MPs considering voting against the package that there would be no return to the negotiating table.

“This is the deal. It’s the best deal possible and the EU will not change its fundamental position when it comes to these issues,” he said.

“Those who think by rejecting the deal that they would have a better deal will be disappointed in the first seconds after the rejection of this deal.”

Both Labour and the SNP Scottish Government rejected Juncker’s warning.

In a statement, Scottish Brexit secretary Michael Russell said: “It takes Scotland out of the European Union against our democratic wishes, it removes us from the single market against our economic interests, and it would put us at a competitive economic disadvantage compared to Northern Ireland.

“The only thing it guarantees is years of damaging uncertainty, which will cost jobs and hit living standards and, by ending freedom of movement, will make it harder to attract the staff we need for our NHS “That is why the Scottish Government will now work with others to get a better deal for Scotland within the European single market and customs union –which is eight times bigger than the UK market alone – and why we support another referendum on EU membership.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described it as “a bad deal for the country.”

“It is the result of a miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds,” said Corbyn. “It gives us less say over our future, and puts jobs and living standards at risk.

“That is why Labour will oppose this deal in parliament. We will work with others to block a no-deal outcome, and ensure that Labour’s alternative plan for a sensible deal to bring the country together is on the table.”

The meaningful vote in the Commons is expected in the second week of December.

In a hugely embarrassing setback for May, a Eurosceptic MPs given a surprise knightood by the Prime Minister, has said he won’t support her deal, John Hayes became Sir John on Friday, leading to accusations of “cronyism”.

Brexiteer MP Tory Mark Francois suggested his colleague’s coat of arms should feature an “utter c**k rampant on one side and a big chicken on the other”.

He claimed the award was a sign of “absolute desperation by a government which has effectively abandoned Brexit.”

But yesterday, Hayes told the Mail on Sunday: “As I’ve made very clear before my honour, I cannot support the deal as it now stands.”