Theresa May prepares for Commons vote on Brexit deal
Conservative MPs are planning to launch a leadership contest against Theresa May as she prepares for a decisive Commons showdown on her Brexit deal, it has been reported.
According to The Times, Brexiteer Tory MPs are poised to send in letters calling for her removal to 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady if she loses tomorrow night's meaningful vote, with the 48 needed to trigger a confidence vote expected to be finally reached over the coming days.
The Prime Minister will today launch a desperate last-ditch bid to win over wavering Tory backbenchers by holding a series of private meetings as the countdown to the vote continues.
It is understood that May will make a final decision today on whether to delay the vote after being warned by senior ministers, including chief whip Julian Smith, that she is heading for a heavy defeat.
But yesterday the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay denied that Downing Street could delay the crunch vote and appeal to Brussels for further concessions in order to avoid a destabilising defeat.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: "The vote is going ahead.”
Tory Brexiteers are now reportedly concerned that May’s refusal to reopen the negotiations with Brussels could pave the way for a softer Brexit deal or even a second referendum.
Commenting on the likelihood of letters of no confidence reaching the necessary threshold, a former Cabinet minister said: “I would be astonished if we don’t get to 48 this week.”
Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson yesterday led calls for the Prime Minister to re-enter talks with EU officials over the controversial Northern Irish backstop arrangement, saying MPs had given her a clear signal to change course.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “We can do much, much better than this…
"If the Prime Minister is able to go back to Brussels next week, this week, and say 'I'm afraid that the Irish backstop solution that you have come up with is very unpopular, not just with the country but also with the House of Commons', and if the House of Commons gives, as I think it will, a powerful mandate to change that backstop... then I think... they will listen.
"Because what they want is the best possible deal with the UK, a deal that keeps their goods and services flowing on either side of the channel. And neither side wants to go out with a no-deal Brexit.”
The leading Brexiteer also refused to rule out standing against May in a Tory leadership contest.
Asked to give an "absolute, categorical reassurance" that he would not stand against May, the leading Brexiteer would only say: "I will give you an absolute, categorical promise that I will continue to advocate what I think is the most sensible plan... I'm going to offer you the most sensible plan to get out of this mess."
Last night the Prime Minister held phone calls with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and European Council President Donald Tusk.
Tusk later tweeted that it would be "an important week for the fate of Brexit".