May tries to stall her exit by three months
As cross-party talks fail to make progress, the PM aims for another vote on tweaked ‘divorce’ bill
Theresa May has tried to delay her resignation for almost three months by telling ministers she can get a Brexit deal done if she is allowed to stay as Prime Minister until the end of July. Mrs May met Jeremy Corbyn for cross-party talks last night where she told him that she would table a vote on a Brexit “divorce” Bill next month with or without a deal with Labour. She earlier told Cabinet it was “imperative” the Brexit legislation was passed before Parliament’s summer break.
THERESA MAY has tried to delay her resignation for almost three months by telling ministers she can get a Brexit deal done if she is allowed to stay as Prime Minister until the end of July.
Mrs May met Jeremy Corbyn for cross-party talks last night where she told him that she will table a vote on a Brexit “divorce” Bill next month with or without a deal with Labour. She earlier told her Cabinet that it was “imperative” the Brexit legislation was passed before Parliament breaks for the summer.
The Prime Minister has promised to quit once the Brexit divorce deal is agreed, meaning she would stay in Number 10 for at least another 11 weeks.
It came as a new poll showed the Tories will not solve their problems simply by changing leader, as 60 per cent of voters said they would be no more likely to vote Tory in next week’s elections if Mrs May was replaced.
Mrs May’s face-to-face meeting with Jeremy Corbyn in her parliamentary office last night was only the third time they have met since the talks began six weeks ago.
A Downing Street spokesman said Mrs May made clear her “determination to bring the talks to a conclusion and deliver on the referendum result to leave the EU”. The talks were described as “useful and constructive” and ministers will meet tomorrow to continue the dialogue.
She is expected to set a deadline for Labour to agree to a deal or end the talks by next week, as she wants to publish Brexit legislation before next week’s European elections.
Mrs May is now prepared to put a tweaked Brexit deal to a vote in Parliament even if she cannot guarantee it will pass, as she has accepted she has “run out of road”.
Her aim is for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – the legislation required for Britain to leave the EU with a deal – to receive royal assent before Parliament breaks at the end of July.
That would trigger Mrs May’s departure, allowing for a Tory leadership contest to take place over the summer.
Neither the Conservatives nor Labour expect the cross-party talks to produce a deal, and both sides now also have cold feet over the “plan B” of allowing MPS to choose the way forward through a series of so-called indicative votes.
Instead, Mrs May will publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week beginning June 3 to force MPS into a choice between the deal on the table or the possibility of Brexit being cancelled.
One government source said: “MPS in constituencies that voted Leave will have to decide once and for all whether
‘MPS in constituencies that voted Leave will have to decide once and for all whether they back Brexit’
they back Brexit or want to risk Parliament voting to revoke Article 50 when the current Brexit extension runs out.”
Mrs May wants to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill next week so she can show voters progress is being made before they go to the polls in the May 23 European elections.
The Bill will include concessions agreed with Labour on workers’ rights and regulatory alignment of goods in the hope that it will entice more Labour MPS to vote for it when it has its second reading in Parliament in the first week of June.
It will still, however, contain the controversial “backstop” to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland, and Labour’s demands for a permanent customs union will be ignored.
Meanwhile, a Comres poll for The Daily Telegraph showed that only 15 per cent of voters would be more likely to vote Conservative in the European elections if Mrs May was replaced as leader.
SIR – Tim Stanley (Comment, May 15) is spot-on: we have a potential prime minister.
He is someone who has hands-on experience of running London government in an otherwise Labour city, and of leading the Foreign Office; who has personal experience of the Brussels labyrinth, and who is optimistic, globalist, free-enterprise, liberal, with confidence in the future of a free Britain. He is Boris Johnson.
As we Conservatives lick our wounds and sympathise with many good councillors who lost their seats in the local elections – thanks to Theresa May’s betrayal of her promises to implement Brexit on time – our MPS shrug and continue with their Westminster games. Should they fail to put Mr Johnson on the ballot paper come the leadership election, they will face public and party anger the likes of which they have not yet seen. Jacques Arnold
President, Tonbridge & Malling Conservative Association West Malling, Kent SIR – Rather than holding a discussion on the future of the Conservative party, as advertised on your back page (May 14), I suggest that Dominic Raab and his associates should be arranging a Requiem Mass. Graham W Swift
SIR – The Tory party seems at last to recognise that Mrs May is the greatest threat to its survival. For as long as the party lacks an obvious successor to her, it will sink ever further into the abyss. Its members must now set aside their differences, pool their talents and unite behind a new leader.
Despite several over-ambitious candidates already setting out their stalls, some lack sufficient stature for the job. The field must be narrowed quickly and, once the final choice has been made, Mrs May must be invited to resign or face swift removal.
Under its new leader, the party must seize the initiative from the Brexit Party by undertaking unequivocally to lead Britain out of the EU. There must no longer be any question of “Brexit in name only”. Michael Allisstone
Chichester, West Sussex
SIR – Michael Gove is urging the Tories to allow Mrs May to resign in her own time (report, May 14).
Have the last three years, in which both Brexit and the Tory party have been destroyed, passed him by? Does he not realise that this lady’s answer to everything is to put it off, if possible until it goes away or dies a death? Peter Thompson
SIR – Michael Gove has ambitions to succeed Theresa May in No 10. As the person who knifed Boris Johnson, an act which resulted in Theresa May becoming Prime Minister, he must shoulder the blame for the Brexit fiasco we find ourselves in. He can’t be trusted and is therefore completely unsuitable for the top job. Trevor Nash