May endured a bruising day yesterday with open revolt within the Tories as she prepares to bring back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the Commons.
The biggest blow came as Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom quit the Cabinet over the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan.
Leadsom resigned with a “heavy heart”, saying she no longer believes the Government’s approach will deliver on the referendum result to leave the European Union.
She urged the PM to “make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this Government and our party”.
It comes as both the Tories and Labour face a drubbing in today’s EU election – which has seen voters surge towards Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party.
The PM is expected to meet with Tory grandee Sir Graham Brady tomorrow at the 1922 Committee, where is she expected to be told to jump before she is pushed.
“I do now urge you to make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this Government and our party”
Bexleyheath and Crayford MP Sir David Evennett became the latest Conservative to demand Mrs May’s resignation.
He tweeted: “Theresa May must now resign. We need a new PM a new Cabinet and a new approach to Brexit.”
Tory sources have been quoted as saying the PM has “run out of road” – and another added: “She deserved one last roll of the dice. But she took those dice and threw them off the table”.
Ex-Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith said: “The sofa is up against the door. She’s not leaving.
“She is like a female version of Gordon Brown, needing to be got rid of but locked in the bunker and refusing to go.”
And May’s former joint chief of staff Nick Timothy added: “It is a sorry ending to the career of a dutiful and earnest public servant.”
Meanwhile, Brexit hardliner Jacob Rees-Mogg warned his party must “wake up” to the groundswell of support seen by the fledgling Brexit Party – for which his sister, Annunziata Rees-Mogg, is a candidate in the East Midlands.
He added: “Voters are completely fed up with politicians stitching things up in a back room. They are particularly fed up with politicians who can’t even stitch things up competently.”
Andrea Jenkyns, the first of Mrs May’s 36 ministerial resignations over , quoted revolutionary leader Oliver Cromwell in an article for the Telegraph.
“Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go”
The PM, writing in reply, disagreed with Leadsom’s assessment in her resignation, but said she was sorry to lose someone of Mrs Leadsom’s “passion, drive and sincerity”.
“I do not agree with you that the deal which we have negotiated with the European Union means that the United Kingdom will not become a sovereign country,” Mrs May said.
She went on to say she agreed a second referendum would be divisive, but said the Government was not proposing to hold one.
Mrs Leadsom acknowledged her resignation came on the eve of the European elections, but said she felt she could not announce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) in Thursday’s Business Statement containing “new elements that I fundamentally oppose”.
Listing her reasons for resigning, Mrs Leadsom said she did not believe that the UK will be “truly sovereign” through the deal proposed, and said a second referendum would be “dangerously divisive”.
She added that there had been “such a breakdown of government processes” that recent Brexit-related legislative proposals have not been “properly scrutinised or approved by Cabinet members”.
Mrs Leadsom was one of a number of Brexit-supporting colleagues in the so-called Pizza Club who were absent for the start of Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
The Brexiteer told reporters it had been a “really tough day” but she still found time for social media pleasantries with her former special advisers and Labour MP Jess Phillips.
After she said she had “liked” Mrs Leadsom and praised her work on Commons complaints and proxy voting, the Tory replied “like you too Jess”.
In a dramatic night in Westminster, her resignation came as pressure mounted on Mrs May to quit as the backlash over her last-ditch effort to get a Brexit deal through heightened.
May has previously agreed to set out the timetable for the contest to replace her after a crunch vote on her Brexit deal, widely expected on June 7.
That deadline appears to have been brought forward with the announcement she will meet Sir Graham, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, the day after polling day for the European elections, which are expected to be disastrous for the Conservatives.
Sir Graham told reporters: “I will be meeting with the Prime Minister on Friday following her campaigning in the European elections tomorrow and following that meeting I will be consulting with the 1922 executive.”
He said the executive discussed “all sorts of things” in the meeting.
The 1922 Committee’s executive had been expected to consider a rule change to allow another attempt to force Mrs May out.
Following the failed bid to oust her in 2018, under the existing rules Mrs May would be safe from another confidence motion until December.
In a sign of unrest at the highest levels of the Tory Party, a series of Cabinet ministers asked for meetings with Mrs May to raise their concerns about the WAB which would put the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan into law.
Downing Street sources said it was possible that the PM could meet Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Thursday, but there was no confirmation that an audience would be granted for other ministers with reservations about the plan.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has asked for a meeting to discuss his concerns about the prospect of a second referendum, after Mrs May revealed she would grant MPs a vote on whether the Brexit deal should be put to the public.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell also has particular concerns because he fears the prospect of another referendum could be “exploited” by the SNP to call for a fresh independence vote.
The Conservative and Labour parties are predicted to suffer severe losses in today’s EU Elections, with the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party likely to hoover up votes.
Seventy three MEPs will be elected to represent the UK, using a form of proportional representation called the D’Hondt system.
Results will not be announced until Sunday evening when the last polling station on the continent closes.
England is split into nine regions: South East England has 10 MEPs, London and North West England each have eight, East of England and the West Midlands each have seven, Yorkshire and the Humber and South West England have six each, the East Midlands has five and North East England has three.
May had hoped cross-party Brexit talks would deliver a compromise deal in time to allow her to call off the European Parliament elections.
Downing Street conceded on Wednesday that they expected a “very challenging night” when the results come through.
Farage’s new party has been exploiting the political paralysis in Westminister – demanding the Government leave the EU immediately with “no deal”.
When Britain does finally leave the EU, the European Parliament will reduce from 751 MEPs to 705, with 27 of the UK’s 73 seats being distributed among the remaining member states.
- Theresa May
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