THERESA May faces a fresh coup by Tory Brexiteers today to oust her before she can offer MPs a second referendum that could reverse Brexit.
The new revolt was sparked by the PM’s dramatic final bid on Tuesday to beg MPs to back her EU divorce deal.
In an ultra high stakes gamble, she offered Remainers in Parliament the chance of a ‘confirmatory vote’ if they agree to pass her landmark bill in two weeks time.
Pleading for the Commons to come together and back her “new deal” plan, Mrs May also warned that Brexit was “slipping away from us”.
But that left hardliner Leavers seething.
By 8pm on Tuesday, at least 20 Tory MPs who had backed Mrs May’s deal previously announced they would switch their vote and oppose it, giving her a mountain to climb with Labour votes to replace them.
At the same time, pro-EU Labour MPs also slammed Mrs May for not going far enough.
Labour People’s Vote supporter Peter Kyle also said he would be voting it down as it was just “a whole load of promises on behalf of a next Prime Minister”, adding: “No thanks”.
BREXIT PLAN PANNED
Mrs May’s second highly controversial offer was a second vote for MPs on what new customs system to adopt after Brexit when her landmark Withdrawal Agreement Bill is voted on in the Commons in two weeks time.
MPs will be asked to choose between Mrs May’s original plan – for close alignment with the EU on goods but with an independent trade policy – and a temporary custom union until the next general election in 2022.
Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab last night became the first major Tory leadership contender to say he will vote down the PM’s plan.
Mr Raab tweeted: “I cannot support legislation that would be the vehicle for a second referendum or Customs Union”.
Boris Johnson swiftly followed him, saying the offers were “directly against our manifesto”, and adding in a tweet: “We can and must do better – and deliver what the people voted for”.
Another Tory MP switcher, Ben Bradley, delivered an extraordinary attack on the PM, tweeting: “It’s simply not good enough to abdicate all responsibility for the type of Brexit we end up with. You are the Prime Minister. You can’t stand there and say ‘I do not support a second referendum, but Parliament would like one so I’ll just go along with it’. You are meant to LEAD!”
We can and must do better – and deliver what the people voted for
The DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds also cast serious doubt on his party’s 10 MPs backing it, arguing that “the fatal flaws of the draft treaty remain” –including the unpopular Irish backstop.
Labour boss Jeremy Corbyn was also dismissive, dubbing her offer “a rehash of the government’s position in the cross party talks”, while stopping short of saying his party would vote against it.
Privately, some Cabinet ministers had written off the PM’s chances of success before she had even delivered her speech.
One dubbed it “her final roll of the dice”.
Asked whether they thought her new offer was doomed, the Cabinet minister told The Sun: “What’s the phrase? You may very well think so, I couldn’t possibly say.
“My estimate is we’ll bring over 15 Labour MPs, tops, and we’ll get hammered by our own side”.
Even senior No10 figures admitted the new deal was a big gamble and were left deeply depressed by the overwhelmingly negative reaction.
One Downing Street figure said: “It feels like check mate now.
“They’re all too deep in the trenches to listen to anything she has to say now. We really have nowhere else to go.”
Among her other new offers, there was a promise from Mrs May to the DUP that the rest of the UK will stay aligned with Northern Ireland on regulations at all times, as well as a veto on any move to change the current relationship for the Stormont Assembly.
Tory Brexiteers were given a new legal undertaking that would force the Government to “seek to” have alternative arrangements in place on the Irish border by December 2020 so there is no need for the unpopular backstop.
And wavering Labour MPs were pledged a Commons vote to approve the future trade deal’s negotiating objectives – a specific demand from Labour MPs Lisa Nandy and Gareth Snell – a new Workers’ Rights Bill to mirror EU protections and no change in the level of environmental protection.
There were also a series of personal admissions from Mrs May during the speech at an accountant giant PWC’s HQ in Charring Cross, central London.
MAY'S CRISIS ESCALATES
She conceded that says delivering Brexit “has proved even harder than I anticipated”.
The PM also admitted some personal blame for the Brexit disaster: “We all have to take some responsibility for the fact that we are in this impasse”.
And she also issued a veiled dig at Brexit campaign chiefs during the 2016 referendum, saying: “The challenge of taking Brexit from the simplicity of the choice on the ballot paper to the complexity of resetting the country’s relationship with 27 of its nearest neighbours was always going to be huge”.
The speech followed a “lively ” three hour Cabinet meeting, in which Mrs May’s senior ministers eventually signed off her plan.
But that was only after a blazing row between Remainers and Brexiteers on how far to go on the referendum offer.
For many voters it is no longer just about Brexit – it is about democracy
After Mrs May at one stage proposed a free vote for all ministers on the referendum offer to win over more Labour MPs, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling insisted he would not support it, with one in the room saying he “looked on the verge of resigning”.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also lead a fight against another suggestion, to offer MPs a vote on a full customs union, telling the room he “cannot except” that.
In another clash with the PM during the meeting, Brexit Barclay Steve Barclay issued another impassioned plea for the Government to step up its no deal preparations in case her deal is voted down.
But Mrs May was said to have cut him off after his pitch ran over 10 minutes, and she postponed any Cabinet decision on the divisive issue.
But Cabinet ministers defended the PM, with International Trade Secretary dubbing it “the moment of truth” Tuesday night.
A CAVE-IN TOO FAR
Dr Fox said: “Those voting against the Bill will be voting against the delivery of Brexit itself.
“This is the moment of truth – honour your contract with the voters or break it – they will be watching and they will remember.”
Dr Fox added: “For many voters it is no longer just about Brexit – it is about democracy.”
Business bosses again begged Westminster’s politicians to end the deadlock that insist is doing serious damage to the economy.
CBI President John Allan said: “Tonight I have a plea, from the heart of business, to the heart of politics. Resolve this gridlock. Do whatever it takes and do it fast”.
CONFIDENCE VOTE BID
Mrs May faces a fresh mauling today when she lays out her plan to MPs during a lunchtime Commons address Wednesday.
Senior backbenchers on the Tory 1922 Committee’s executive will mount a new bid to force a confidence vote in the PM when the party’s grandees meet at 4pm this afternoon, The Sun can reveal.
One, Nigel Evans, told The Sun last night: “She has U-turned on absolutely everything, we cannot put up with this any longer.
“I will be asking my colleagues on the ‘22 executive tomorrow to agree to a rule change so we can hold an immediate confidence vote if Theresa is not prepared to stand down now.”
Mr Evans added: “It was the Cabinet’s duty to have acted this morning. They failed, so it’s up to us now”.
She has U-turned on absolutely everything, we cannot put up with this any longer
Some likened the major speech by Mrs May on Tuesday to outline her new consensus offer to Margaret Thatcher’s infamous ‘Paris steps’ moment.
The former Tory PM vowed to fight on during a leadership challenger on her in November 1990, only to be ousted by her own MPs days later.
No10 was left severely shaken by the overwhelmingly negative reaction by MPs on all sides to the PM’s offer, dubbed by one Cabinet minister as her “last roll of the dice”.
One depressed Downing Street figure said: “It feels like check mate now”.
Arch Tory eurosceptics’ boss Jacob Rees-Mogg was one of several to call for Mrs May to resign, branding her package “a Socialist offer”, and that Tory MPs’ opposition to it had “hardened overwhelmingly”.
On another day of deep tension in Westminster:
- At least one senior minister was said to be close to resignation during a heated Cabinet row with Mrs May over her plan.
- Downing Street deepened Tory Brexiteers’ anger by keeping the option of giving ministers a free vote on a second referendum on the table.
- Tory leadership contenders stepped up their pitches as it emerged Sajid Javid wants to rip up a minimum salary threshold for new EU immigrants after Brexit.
- The EU launched a formal investigation into Brexit Party boss Nigel Farage over claims that billionaire donor Arron Banks splashed £450,000 on a luxury lifestyle for following the referendum.
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