Four Labour MPS save May’s pre­mier­ship in crunch vote

Op­po­si­tion Brex­i­teers defy Cor­byn to sup­port PM’S cus­toms plan Tory Re­main­ers stand firm de­spite warn­ing they would trig­ger fresh elec­tion

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Gor­don Rayner Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

THERESA MAY’S im­me­di­ate fu­ture as Prime Min­is­ter was saved by four Labour MPS last night as she avoided a crit­i­cal Com­mons de­feat on Brexit by the nar­row­est of mar­gins.

Twelve Re­main-sup­port­ing Tory rebels de­fied their party by vot­ing with Labour as they tried to force the Gov­ern­ment to seek a cus­toms union with the EU.

Con­ser­va­tive whips had warned their MPS that if Mrs May lost the knifeedge vote her au­thor­ity would have been so badly un­der­mined that it would trig­ger a gen­eral elec­tion.

The mu­ti­neers re­fused to budge, re­port­edly telling the whips to “sod off ”, but the Gov­ern­ment won with a ma­jor­ity of 307-301, thanks to four Labour Brex­i­teers who de­fied their own whip. Had they obeyed Jeremy Cor­byn, Mrs May would have lost by two votes.

Mrs May is not yet out of dan­ger, as she could yet face a no-con­fi­dence vote in her lead­er­ship in the next week.

The Prime Min­is­ter had hoped to bring for­ward the start of Par­lia­ment’s sum­mer re­cess to to­mor­row, which would have thwarted any im­me­di­ate at­tempt to hold a vote on her leader- ship. But she had to aban­don the plan af­ter an in­ter­nal back­lash led by Sa­jid Javid, the Home Sec­re­tary, mean­ing she faces an anx­ious wait un­til Tues­day to see if her MPS try to top­ple her.

Mrs May must to­day face the 1922 Com­mit­tee of back-bench Tory MPS af­ter two days of fu­ri­ous mud-sling­ing on the Gov­ern­ment benches.

Boris John­son, who re­signed as for­eign sec­re­tary over the Che­quers agree­ment, is also ex­pected to in­ter- vene by mak­ing his res­ig­na­tion speech in Par­lia­ment to­day, though al­lies said Mr John­son would not make any per­sonal at­tacks on Mrs May.

Last night Sir John Ma­jor, the last Con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ter to face a no-con­fi­dence vote, sug­gested that Tory in-fight­ing could put Mr Cor­byn in No10. Sir John told ITV News that Mrs May was in a “more dif­fi­cult po­si­tion” now than he was in the Nineties, when hard­line Eu­roscep­tics in his party – whom he re­ferred to as “b------s” – de­stroyed the gov­ern­ment over the Maas­tricht Treaty. Sir John was de­feated by a land­slide in 1997 which be­gan 13 years of Labour rule.

On Mon­day, Mrs May was forced to ac­cept four changes to her cus­toms plans from Brex­i­teers that they be­lieve will kill off her Che­quers plan.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day she lost a Brexit vote in the Com­mons for only the sec­ond time when an amend­ment to the trade bill re­quir­ing UK par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Euro­pean medicines reg­u­la­tory net­work was passed by four votes.

How­ever, it was the Re­main­ers’ at­tempt to force a change on her cus­toms plan that threat­ened her fu­ture, as it di­rectly con­tra­dicted her Che­quers plan.

Whips tried to bring rebels into line by telling them their ac­tions would lead to a no-con­fi­dence vote in Mrs May, which in turn could lead to a gen­eral elec­tion that Mr Cor­byn could win.

Two Tory MPS who re­belled in Mon­day’s vote sup­ported the Gov­ern­ment last night, along with four oth­ers who had re­belled in the past, sug­gest­ing the tac­tic may have had some suc­cess.

Theresa May leaves Down­ing Street for Par­lia­ment, where she avoided a nar­row de­feat on Brexit – but she could yet face a vote of no con­fi­dence

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