THERESA May is desperately fighting to stay in office by scrapping the planned vote on her Brexit deal, furious MPs fear. The PM is under intense pressure to resign tomorrow as Cabinet ministers and Brexiteer rebels fight to get her out of No10.
Today Mrs May abandoned plans to hold a fourth vote on her Brexit deal in two weeks’ time – prompting claims she is still trying to dig in and survive.
Labour’s Valerie Vaz blasted: “The Prime Minister has yet again put her own political survival ahead of the national interest.”
Mrs May is reluctant to blow up her legacy by quitting with Brexit still in the balance and the Tories at rock-bottom in the opinion polls.
But party grandees and ministers have so far held back from delivering the killer blow and publicly demanding her resignation.
She has arranged to see Tory chief Sir Graham Brady tomorrow after Andrea Leadsom dramatically quit the Cabinet.
Aides expect her to announce she is stepping down – triggering a leadership election which will take around six weeks.
Even the most loyal Tory MPs are now going public with their demands for Mrs May to resign as soon as possible.
Yesterday the PM’s closest officials told her she has lost the confidence of the party, and has no chance of getting her Brexit deal through Parliament.
As Mrs May enters the endgame of her time in office:
- The Tories face a battering at today’s European elections
- Leadership rivals jostled for position with Boris Johnson favourite to take over
- Andrea Leadsom hit out at Remainers who have undermined Brexit
- Mel Stride replaced Mrs Leadsom as the Leader of the Commons
- Other ministers threatened to quit if Mrs May clings on
The Prime Minister bought herself a few more hours in office last night by sending the Chief Whip to address furious party grandees.
But she refused to go and see them herself, bunkering down in 10 Downing Street instead. Ex-leader Iain Duncan Smith quipped: “The sofa is up against the door, she’s not leaving.”
Julian Smith told the 1922 Committee Mrs May will hold a meeting with chairman Sir Graham after the Euro elections are over.
If she resigns during that meeting, she’ll stay as interim leader while a new PM is elected by Tory MPs and members.
Asked who will be in charge when Donald Trump visits Britain next month, Jeremy Hunt said today: “Theresa May will be Prime Minister to welcome him and rightly so.”
Today Government whip Mark Spencer, standing in for the ex-Commons Leader Mrs Leadsom, revealed that plans to hold a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the first week of June had been shelved.
Labour’s Valerie Vaz blasted: “This is yet another broken promise by the Prime Minister on Brexit.”
If Mrs May refuses to step down tomorrow, the 1922 Committee is likely to change party rules to allow an immediate no-confidence vote.
It’s understood members have already cast votes on a rule change, with their ballots sealed in an envelope which will only be opened if the PM tries to continue in office.
The committee’s treasurer, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, said today: “I want her to give a timetable for when she will go.”
Mrs Leadsom refused to say if she wants the leader to step down, saying this morning: “It’s for the Prime Minister to decide what’s right for her and for the country.”
Mel Stride, currently a junior Treasury minister, was announced as the new Commons Leader, with Jesse Norman, Michael Ellis and Rebecca Pow also picking up promotions in a mini-reshuffle.
Cabinet rebels are also furious at Mrs May for saying the Government will legislate for a second Brexit referendum if the Commons votes for one.
A number of senior ministers including David Mundell, Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid have asked to see Mrs May today to lay out their concerns about her leadership and Brexit plans.
Mr Duncan Smith today warned Cabinet members they must quit if the PM tries to press ahead with holding a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
He told TalkRADIO: “If this bill is published tomorrow, I’m afraid you have to walk. You’re not doing the Prime Minister a favour if you are supporting her in this charade.”
It emerged yesterday that 76 Tory MPs — a quarter of her party — are now vowing to vote down her deal if it returns to the Commons.
As well as Mrs Leadsom, seven other Cabinet ministers have told No10 they won’t back Mrs May’s high-stakes final Brexit gamble, which she announced in a speech on Tuesday.
Others in the top-table revolt include Mr Hunt, Mr Javid, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay.
Loyal backbenchers are increasingly turning against Mrs May in the wake of her latest Brexit fiasco.
Veteran MP Sir David Evennett said: “Theresa May must now resign. We need a new PM a new Cabinet and a new approach to Brexit.”
And ex-minister Nicky Morgan, a strong supporter of the PM’s Brexit deal, added: “The bill should not be put before parliament until there is a new Prime Minister.
“Although taking on the role under the current circumstances must seem like the absolute worst of poisoned chalices, at least there is still a chance, if the bill hasn’t been defeated, of finding enough common ground to get an agreement through Parliament.”
Digital Minister Margot James, who still backs Mrs May, said: “It’s all very regrettable but she’s being hounded out of office because Parliament will not make a decision and the parties just have an inability to compromise.”
In the event of a new Tory leadership contest, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would be a front-runner. But allies said Mrs Leadsom is considering whether to mount a new Tory leadership challenge to succeed Mrs May.
It would be her second tilt at the top job following her controversial bid in 2016 when she was forced to withdraw after appearing to suggest she was a better choice for the PM because she had children.
The leadership election will take roughly six weeks, with a new Prime Minister in place in early July – but Mrs May would stay in place while her successor is chosen.
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