EX­CLU­SIVE: PM’s wake-up call to Tory rebels

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Front Page - By Glen Owen and Harry Cole

THERESA MAY to­day warns her war­ring party that if they vote down her Brexit deal they risk hand­ing the coun­try to Jeremy Cor­byn – and be­ing stuck per­ma­nently in the EU.

The Prime Minister uses a pow­er­ful in­ter­view in to­day’s Mail on Sun­day to plead di­rectly with the dozens of Tory MPs who have threat­ened to rebel in Tues­day’s his­toric Com­mons vote on her Brexit deal.

Mrs May, who says she has re­ceived

thou­sands of mes­sages of per­sonal sup­port from vot­ers, tries to avert the re­bel­lion by ‘weapon­is­ing’ the prospect of Mr Cor­byn in No10.

Such is the scale of the ex­pected re­volt – more than 100 Tories, by some es­ti­mates – that a grow­ing num­ber of se­nior Gov­ern­ment fig­ures are urg­ing Mrs May to de­lay the vote and em­bark on a fi­nal bid to secure last-ditch con­ces­sions from Brus­sels this week.

A de­feat of that mag­ni­tude would leave her fac­ing a putsch by ei­ther a Com­mons vote of no con­fi­dence or from within her own party if she did not re­sign.

Mrs May tells this news­pa­per that Bri­tain ‘would truly be in un­charted wa­ters’ if the deal is voted down.

She says: ‘It would mean grave uncer­tainty for the na­tion with a very real risk of no Brexit. We have a leader of the Op­po­si­tion who thinks of noth­ing but at­tempt­ing to bring about a Gen­eral Elec­tion, no mat­ter what the cost to the coun­try… I be­lieve Jeremy Cor­byn get­ting his hands on power is a risk we can­not af­ford to take.’

She tells her MPs: ‘If you want Brexit, make sure you get it, and that’s about this deal.’

But last night Mrs May suf­fered a blow when an aide to De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson re­signed. Par­lia­men­tary Pri­vate Sec­re­tary Will Quince, a Brex­i­teer, handed in his no­tice say­ing he was un­able to vote for Mrs May’s deal.

Ahead of one of the most mo­men­tous weeks in post-war Bri­tish pol­i­tics:

Mrs May was con­sid­er­ing mak­ing an emer­gency dash to Brus­sels to secure new legally bind­ing as­sur­ances over the con­tro­ver­sial back­stop – as the EU hatched se­cret plans to de­lay Brexit by six weeks;

Tory Brexit ring­leader Ja­cob Rees-Mogg backed a Brexit/ Re­main ‘unity’ ticket of Boris John­son and Am­ber Rudd if Mrs May falls;

MPs claimed that Home Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid was openly can­vass­ing sup­port for a lead­er­ship bid, while for­mer Brexit Sec­re­taries David Davis and Do­minic Raab were ‘jostling for po­si­tion with each other’;

Leaked polling from Tory HQ re­vealed that 57 per cent of Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers think MPs should vote for the deal, with just 27 per cent say­ing they should vote against;

It was claimed that, if Mrs May was forced out af­ter the vote on Tues­day, then the Com­mons would have to sit at Christ­mas for the first time since the 17th Cen­tury Cromwellian in­ter­reg­num;

Labour MPs piled pres­sure on Jeremy Cor­byn to hon­our party pol­icy on a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum;

Nigel Farage is poised to launch a new Leave party to ex­ploit Con­ser­va­tive di­vi­sions.

Al­though there is a grow­ing be­lief in West­min­ster that Mrs May could be forced to de­lay the vote, she last night in­sisted her Cabi­net was united be­hind her. ‘I think we all recog­nise that this is a good deal,’ she said.

How­ever, Mrs May was also ‘wargam­ing’ a plan to can­cel the vote and make a dash to Brus­sels to seek fur­ther con­ces­sions from the EU. The Mail on Sun­day un­der­stands the EU is pre­pared to of­fer a six-week ex­ten­sion to the twoyear Ar­ti­cle 50 exit process.

But se­nior Euro­crats have warned No10 there is ‘zero chance’ of re­open­ing the text of the With­drawal Agree­ment.

Down­ing Street is in­stead fo­cus­ing on seek­ing ad­di­tional legally bind­ing pro­to­cols to wa­ter down the hated North­ern Ir­ish back­stop. Tory MPs have re­volted over the fact that the deal risks keep­ing Bri­tain locked into EU rules in­def­i­nitely due to the back­stop, de­signed to avoid a hard bor­der in Ire­land.

But in­ter­nal polling from Tory HQ ob­tained by this news­pa­per found Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers in Tory-held seats want their MPs to vote for the deal by a ma­jor­ity of more than two to one – sug­gest­ing MPs who voted against the deal could be pun­ished at the bal­lot box at the next Elec­tion.

If Mrs May loses an im­me­di­ate no-con­fi­dence vote on Tues­day, Parliament could have to sit on Christ­mas Day be­cause the Fixed Term Parliament Act sets a dead­line of 14 cal­en­dar days for a new Gov­ern­ment to be formed, mean­ing De­cem­ber 25 would be the last chance for any coali­tion to try to win a Com­mons ma­jor­ity. It’s be­lieved that the last time the Com­mons sat on Christ­mas Day was in 1656.

Labour MPs are pri­vately urg­ing Jeremy Cor­byn to ta­ble a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion against Mrs May if she loses the vote on her deal in the hope that it leads to a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

Asked whether Labour would push for a no-con­fi­dence vote, Shadow Chan­cel­lor John McDon­nell told The Mail on Sun­day: ‘We’ll judge when we see what hap­pens on Tues­day.’

Mr Rees-Mogg said dodg­ing a vote on her Brexit deal would be as dam­ag­ing to Mrs May as los­ing it. He said: ‘The hu­mil­i­a­tion of avoid­ing a vote is as much a rea­son for her de­par­ture as de­feat. It is her pol­icy which has failed and for which she is ac­count­able. And it would be much bet­ter if she left of her own ac­cord rather than face a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion.’

Mrs May’s al­lies ar­gue that, if the deal crashes, it will not only lead to the end of her lead­er­ship but the sus­pen­sion of Ar­ti­cle 50, the trig­ger­ing of an Elec­tion likely to lead to a Labour-SNP coali­tion Gov­ern­ment, then a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum to try to re­v­erse Brexit.

Mrs May, who re­fuses to say whether she will re­sign if she loses the vote on her Brexit deal, rules out a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum while she is leader, telling this news­pa­per: ‘We had a peo­ple’s vote. Let’s de­liver on the first peo­ple’s vote.’

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