Frustrated Cabinet ministers demanded Theresa May come up with an 11th hour plan to save her Brexit deal yesterday as crisis talks discussed likely defeat on Tuesday.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd was among those who asked the PM ‘what do you want to do’, it was claimed today.
Pressure is mounting rapidly on Mrs May ahead of Tuesday’s showdown, amid claims she should try and call off the vote or go back to Brussels before it happens.
Graham Brady, the chairman of the powerful backbench 1922 Committee, has led calls for a delay.
But Downing Street is making no move in either direction and instead sending 30 ministers on the road to stump for the deal around the country today.
The Prime Minister may not even be able to call off the main vote as it would require winning a procedural vote in the House. She was defeated three times on Tuesday.
Brussels is maintaining there is no prospect of re-opening the divorce deal, leaving Government whips scrambling to find support among MPs.
A new amendment has been tabled by Tory loyalists overnight setting out a plan for Parliament to vote on whether to enter the backstop or extend transition in 2020.
But it has already been rejected by the DUP as ‘tinkering’ because the withdrawal treaty insists any decision must be approved by Brussels, whatever MPs say.
Eurosceptics said Mrs May should take her demands over the backstop straight to Dublin after leaked papers said no deal would be worse for Ireland.
The idea of threatening Ireland was branded ‘morally reprehensible’ by Remain supporters given the history of violence on the border.
In other developments, it was claimed today senior allies of Mrs May have urged her to consider a new referendum on her deal or remaining in the EU – something the PM has repeatedly rejected.
Frustrated Cabinet ministers demanded Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street last night) come up with an 11th hour plan to save her Brexit deal yesterday as crisis talks discussed likely defeat on Tuesday
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) was among those who asked the PM ‘what do you want to do’, it was claimed today
Last night, Mrs May held around an hour of talks with ministers including Philip Hammond, Ms Rudd, Sajid Javid, Liam Fox, David Lidington, David Gauke, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove and Stephen Barclay.
The Telegraph said today she gave only ‘non committal’ response to pleas for a choice among four possibilities, including delaying the vote.
‘When it came to the crunch, ministers crumbled’: McVey claims she was shouted down in Brexit Cabinet
Esther McVey said Brexiteer resistance in Cabinet ‘crumbled’ when Theresa May presented her deal at the crunch meeting last month.
The former work and pensions secretary resigned over the deal after demanding a vote in Cabinet only to be shouted down by officials.
She said instead of focusing minds her call for a vote led colleagues to ‘chose to say nothing’.
Ms McVey and Dominic Raab resigned over the deal – leaving five Brexiteers including Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom in their posts.
Ms McVey has since become one of the most ferocious critics of the deal – warning it was a breach of trust with voters.
Of her call for a vote of senior ministers, she said: ‘I thought we needed to focus our minds because this was a huge change for the country.
‘But when the moment came, my Cabinet colleagues chose not to say anything.
‘People talk about accountability, people talk about transparency, people talk about politicians with integrity but when it came to the crunch the other people around the room crumbled. I said, I hope they weren’t like that in their EU negotiations.’
Chief whip Julian Smith apparently admitted a defeat by up to 200 votes was not impossible. Many expect the defeat to run to at least three figures without a new plan.
The Cabinet is divided over what to do. One camp, including Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, are advocating delay to the vote.
Also in favour of a postponement is Sir Graham, who is in charge of calling any confidence vote in the PM, who told Sky News: ‘I don’t think there is any point in ploughing ahead and losing the vote heavily.’
Others, including Chancellor Philip Hammond, say everything necessary must be done to prevent no deal.
Sources told MailOnline last night’s meeting was ‘taking stock’ of the situation.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today that Downing Street had been ‘very clear’ that the Brexit vote would not be delayed.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘I think that we should make the argument, make the case and persuade people. That’s what you have parliamentary debate for.’
He added: ‘I don’t know how likely ‘no deal’ is. It is what happens automatically unless Parliament passes something else.
‘I very strongly feel that the best thing for the country, not just for the health service but for the country as a whole, is for Theresa May’s deal to pass.’
As wrangling over the vote continues, BuzzFeed News said No 10 aides have raised the prospect of a new Brexit referendum as a way to save the deal.
Mrs May has angrily rejected the idea, sources told the site, because it fails to respect the 2016 vote.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove (left) and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom (right) were among the ministers at the meeting in No10 yesterday
Ministers will fan out across the country today to sell the deal.
Mr Hammond will visit a Chertsey school, while Mr Hancock will head to a hospital in Portsmouth where he will announce almost £1 billion of funding for health facilities across England.
No deal would be WORSE for Ireland than the UK and mean food shortages
A no deal Brexit would be worse for Ireland than the UK, Government papers claim fuelling demands for Theresa May to tell Dublin to drop the border backstop (file image)
Leaked papers suggest Ireland would face foot shortages and a 7 per cent plunge in GDP if there was a sudden no deal in March.
It compares to a 5 per cent drop in the UK – with the gap fuelled by Ireland being a more open economy than Britain.
The bleak picture has prompted Cabinet ministers and leading Brexiteers to plead with Mrs May to exploit Dublin’s position before Tuesday’s vote, The Times reported.
Remainers said it was ‘morally reprehensible’ to threaten Ireland given the bloody history of the Troubles.
Priti Patel, the former cabinet minister, told the Times: ‘This paper appears to show the government were well aware Ireland will face significant issues in a no-deal scenario.
‘Why hasn’t this point been pressed home during the negotiations? There is still time to go back to Brussels and get a better deal.’
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, Mrs May’s de facto deputy, will meet small business leaders in Belfast and Scotland Secretary David Mundell will speak to employers in Glasgow.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, meanwhile, will visit engineering companies in Peterborough and the East Midlands.
Mrs May said: ‘We have delivered a deal that honours the vote of the British people.
‘I’ve been speaking to factory workers in Scotland, farmers in Wales and people right across the country, answering their questions about the deal and our future.
‘Overwhelmingly, the message I’ve heard is that people want us to get on with it.
‘And that’s why it’s important that ministers are out speaking with communities across the UK today about how the deal works for them.
In interview yesterday on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mrs May said her fear was that ‘Parliament in some way frustrates Brexit’.
The premier also confirmed that she is looking at ways to sweeten her blueprint for mutinous MPs – suggesting there could be a parliamentary ‘lock’ on the Irish border backstop arrangements coming into force.
A new amendment to Tuesday’s vote was tabled by Tory loyalists overnight setting out a series of Commons votes on using the backstop.
The plan, from Hugo Swire and Richard Graham, says Parliament should vote in March 2020 on the state of plans to avoid a hard border and whether or not Britain should trigger a transition period extension in June 2020.
The idea is to persuade Brexiteers Britain cannot be forced into the backstop and will not be left inside it forever – despite legal advice saying this could happen.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said the plan was just ‘tinkering’ and did not change the main problem that Brussels has the power to veto whatever decision Britain makes.
She said: ‘The legally binding international Withdrawal Treaty would remain fundamentally flawed as evidenced by the Attorney General’s legal advice.’
Nikki da Costa, the former No 10 director of legislative affairs who quit over the deal, suggested the amendment was a Downing Street plant.
She told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: ‘I know a government amendment when I see one.’
A new amendment to Tuesday’s vote was tabled by Tory loyalists overnight setting out a series of Commons vote on using the backstop
Nikki da Costa, the former No 10 director of legislative affairs who quit over the deal, suggested the amendment was a Downing Street plant
What happens now the Brexit deal has been signed off in Brussels?
Theresa May passed a milestone in the Brexit process by agreeing a package with the EU. But there is still a long way to go.
This is what the next steps are:
December 11: The meaningful vote itself. This is the absolutely crucial moment and could make or break the Prime Minister and her deal. MPs will vote after a debate that could last as long as five days.
If the vote carries, Mrs May survives and Brexit is on track as she plans. If she loses, she could resign.
December 13-14: The next EU summit. If the deal has been rejected by MPs, Mrs May could use this to try and secure new concessions.
January 2019: The European Parliament is due to vote on the deal – but will only do so if it has been agreed in the House of Commons.
March 29, 2019: Exit day. This is written in law so unless there is a dramatic shift Britain will leave the EU, deal or no deal.
Mrs May will head to Brussels on December 13, two days after the crunch Commons vote.
If she loses the vote, EU leaders would offer her the chance to extend the Article 50 process to avoid a no-deal Brexit, reported The Telegraph.
But Downing Street has ruled this out.
The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier insisted that the agreement with Theresa May was the only deal on offer and there was no scope for change.
In a speech at the European Committee of the Regions, he said: ‘I must say once again, today, calmly and clearly: It is the only and the best possible agreement.’
He added that Brexit was a ‘lose-lose’ situation and the deal was an exercise in ‘damage limitation’.
On the issue of the Irish backstop, Mr Barnier said: ‘It is a legally operational form of insurance that will ensure that we never see the return of a hard border, that we have north-south co-operation on the island of Ireland and that we protect the integrity of the single market.
‘The backstop is not there in order to be used, necessarily. We will do our utmost to avoid ever having to use it.’
Who are the Tory MPs who have indicated they will not back Theresa May’s Brexit deal?
- Boris Johnson, Uxbridge and South Ruislip
- David Davis, Haltemprice and Howden
- Iain Duncan Smith, Chingford and Woodford Green
- Owen Paterson, North Shropshire
- Priti Patel, Witham
- John Whittingdale, Maldon
- Mark Francois, Rayleigh and Wickford
- David Jones, Clwyd West
- Sir Desmond Swayne, New Forest West
- Julian Lewis, New Forest East
- Jacob Rees-Mogg, North East Somerset
- Steve Baker, Wycombe
- Sir Bernard Jenkin, North Essex
- Sir Mike Penning, Hemel Hempstead
- Sir David Amess, Southend West
- Sir Edward Leigh, Gainsborough
- Sir Christopher Chope, Christchurch
- Andrea Jeankyns, Morley and Outwood
- John Redwood, Wokingham
- Ben Bradley, Mansfield
- Marcus Fysh, South Somerset
- Maria Caulfield, Lewes
- Simon Clarke, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland
- Ross Thomson, Aberdeen South
- Henry Smith, Crawley
- Nadine Dorries, Mid Bedfordshire
- Chris Green, Bolton West
- Andrew Bridgen, North West Leicestershire
- Bill Cash, Stone
- Sheryll Murray, South East Cornwal
- Andrew Rosindell, Romford
- Lee Rowley, North East Derbyshire
- Peter Bone, Wellingborough 34. Anne main, St Albans
- 35. Craig Mackinlay, South Thanet
- 36. Charlie Elphicke, Dover and Deal
- 37. Conor Burns, Bournemouth West
- James Duddridge, Rochford and Southend East
- 39. Trudy Harrison, Copeland
40. Andrew Lewer, Northampton South
41. Nigel Mills, Amber Valley
42. Martin Vickers, Cleethorpes
43. Richard Bacon, South Norfolk
44. Philip Davies, Shipley
45. Anne-Marie Morris, Newton Abbot
46. James Gray, North Wiltshire
47. Adam Holloway, Gravesham
48. Crispin Blunt, Reigate
49. Richard Drax, South Dorset
50. Philip Hollobone, Kettering
51. Laurence Robertson, Tewkesbury
52. Bill Wiggin, North Herefordshire,
53. Pauline Latham, Mid Derbyshire
54. Nigel Evans, Ribble Valley
55. Scott Mann, North Cornwall
56. Tim Loughton,East Worthing and Shoreham
57. Zac Goldsmith, Richmond Park
58. Robert Courts, Witney
59. Michael Fabricant, Lichfield
60. Michael Tomlinson, Mid Dorset and North Poole
61. Damian Collins, Folkestone and Hythe
62. Jo Johnson, Orpington
63. Phillip Lee, Bracknell
64. Heidi Allen, South Cambridgeshire.
65. Justine Greening, Putney
66. Dominic Grieve, Beaconsfield.
67. Dominic Raab, Esher and Walton
68. Esther McVey, Tatton
69. Shailesh Vara, North West Cambridgeshire
70. Rehman Chishti, Gillingham
71. Ranil Jayawardena, North East Hampshire
72. Suella Braverman, Fareham
73. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Berwick-upon-Tweed
74. Hugo Swire, East Devon
75. Neil Parish, Tiverton and Honiton
76. Steve Double, St Austell and Newquay
77. Theresa Villiers, Chipping Barnet
78. Royston Smith, Southampton Itchen
79. Mark Pritchard, The Wrekin
80. Grant Shapps, Welwyn Hatfield
81. Damien Moore,Southport
82. Daniel Kawczynski, Shrewsbury and Atcham
83. Lucy Allan, Telford
84. David Evennett, Bexleyheath and Crayford
85. Anna Soubry, Broxtowe
86. Rob Halfon, Harlow
87. Bob Stewart, Beckenham
88. Gordon Henderson, Sittingbourne and Sheppey
89. Stephen Metcalfe, South Basildon and East Thurrock
90. John Baron, Basildon and Billericay
91. Julia Lopez,Hornchurch & Upminster
92. John Hayes, South Holland and The Deepings
93. Sarah Wollaston, Totnes
94. Guto Bebb, Aberconwy
95. Tracey Crouch, Chatham and Aylesford
96. Sir Michael Fallon, Sevenoaks
97. Douglas Ross, Moray
98. Derek Thomas, St Ives
99. Sir Robert Syms, Poole
100. Matthew Offord, Hendon
101. Sam Gyimah, East Surrey
102. Mark Harper, Forest of Dean,
103. Giles Watling, Clapton
104. Johnny Mercer, Plymouth Moor View