May told to quit if she loses vote
Cabinet ministers say PM must get better terms or resign as Brexit deal has ‘zero’ chance of success
THERESA MAY has been warned by Cabinet ministers she will have to quit if her Brexit deal is defeated in the Commons next week and she fails to secure better terms from the EU, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
Ministers believe the chances of her deal passing a Commons vote on Tuesday are “zero” after it was publicly criticised by more than 100 Tory MPS.
One Cabinet minister said Mrs May would fall if she was defeated and failed to go back to Brussels to fundamentally renegotiate the EU Withdrawal Agreement.
It came as Iain Duncan Smith, a Eurosceptic Tory MP and the former Conservative party leader, warned for the first time that Mrs May could have to go if she and her Cabinet decided to “brazen it out” in the wake of the vote. He told The Telegraph: “How the PM responds after the vote matters more than anything else she has done. I believe that if the response is, ‘we’ve lost but we will do this all over again’, it will become a leadership issue.
“I don’t want it to be. If she and the Cabinet decide to brazen it out and simply say [a defeat of ] anything under 200 is not as big as you think, then that would be a disaster.”
Downing Street is now braced for further resignations. The Telegraph understands that three middle-ranking Eurosceptic ministers are considering quitting because they cannot back the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.
Mrs May was confronted on Thursday by Cabinet ministers who demanded she give details on a “Plan B” for Brexit. But she declined, with Downing Street yesterday rejecting Cabinet calls for the vote to be delayed.
Tory Eurosceptics will today increase pressure on Mrs May as Boris Johnson, David Davis and Priti Patel address grassroots Conservatives.
Ms Patel will say: “This deal doesn’t deliver for the country, it doesn’t deliver for Leave voters and it certainly doesn’t deliver for Conservative Party members.” If it is rejected by Parliament, Mrs May will next week be pressed by Cabinet ministers to go back to Brussels and renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement.
One said: “She has said she’s a bloody difficult woman. She has got to go back to Brussels and come up with something that MPS can get behind. She should be bloody difficult with them, not her own MPS.”
Another said that the “survival of the Conservative Party” was at stake if the Prime Minister suffered a heavy defeat on Tuesday. Cabinet ministers are
already splitting into different camps with their rival Plan Bs. The Telegraph understands some Remain-supporting ministers are preparing for a second referendum and are said to be discussing lifting collective responsibility so they can campaign to stay in.
Cabinet Eurosceptics are drawing up plans for a “managed no-deal Brexit”, though this is being strongly resisted by colleagues. Other Cabinet ministers are planning a Norway-style deal that would keep the UK in the single market.
And last night Amber Rudd became the first member of Cabinet to speak openly about the need for a Plan B by describing the a Norway-style deal as “plausible” in a newspaper interview.
In a last-ditch effort to shore up support for the Government, three Tory backbenchers tabled a Governmentbacked amendment that would give MPS a vote before Britain entered the backstop. However, Eurosceptics dismissed it as legally meaningless.
Mr Johnson, the former foreign secretary, yesterday described the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan as an “S&M approach” that would keep the UK locked in chains. “The manacles have been co-forged, if you like, by us,” he said. “We have decided to collaborate in our own incarceration.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s a kind of S&M approach to Government. What perversion is it where you want to be locked up in chains?” He repeatedly refused to say if he had submitted a letter expressing no confidence in Mrs May.
No 10 yesterday insisted the vote would go ahead despite calls by ministers, including Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, for a delay.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, increased pressure on Mrs May, insisting his party would tear up the plans for a backstop. He told Euronews: “There certainly wouldn’t be a backstop from which you can’t escape.” He also suggested a Labour government could extend Article 50 to allow for more negotiating time, delaying Brexit.