Theresa May today faced multiple calls to resign from Tory Right-wingers amid signs her days as Prime Minister are numbered.
Steve Double called for “new leadership” and Michael Fabricant demanded: “We need a Churchill, not a Chamberlain”. MP Andrea Jenkyns tweeted: “The Cabinet and Chief Whip need to tell her to resign.”
The Prime Minister left the EU summit in Brussels early this morning to return to No 10 to launch a desperate attempt to patch up relations with her MPs and ministers at the end of a week of contradictions and misjudgments.
Chief Whip Julian Smith was seen going into No 10 this morning as it was revealed he branded as “appalling” her TV statement on Wednesday night attacking Parliament and blamed it for wrecking delicate negotiations that might have persuaded dozens of Labour MPs to back her deal.
Perhaps a fatal misstep was to raise hopes among the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers that she would support no deal, only to do a U-turn in the early hours by saying she would let MPs decide “how to proceed” if her deal falls.
Eurosceptic MP Marcus Fysh said: “It’s time for the Cabinet to ask her to think about whether she is the right person for this job. Her stance suggests she is not standing up for Britain in these negotiations.”
In key developments:
Downing Street was unable to say when the third meaningful vote on Mrs May’s deal would take place, although the Mrs May’s allies were hoping to put it to MPs next week. Ministers said privately the deal is doomed.
Senior MPs in the cross-party group that aims to take control of the Brexit process and identify a Plan B are going to meet chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels on Monday, the Evening Standard has learned. They will tell him that the Commons is now ready and able to deliver a stable Brexit plan independently of Mrs May.
Ministers won a fight by making Mrs May allow a free vote in “indicative votes” on alternative plans. It was announced by Brexit Minister Kwasi Kwarteng. MPs now plan a unique “multiple choice” vote next Wednesday.
Two Labour sources have told the Standard that 50 of Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs were willing to break ranks to prevent no deal by passing Mrs May’s withdrawal plan, only to walk away when they saw her TV address. Chief Whip Mr Smith is said to have complained angrily of Mrs May: “She just won’t listen to us.”
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, was bombarded with messages from MPs calling for her to go. It was reported that he warned Mrs May on Monday that pressure was building for her to set a date to stand down.
Sir Oliver Letwin, architect of the cross-party bid to seize the Commons agenda and pass a better Brexit plan, went into the Cabinet Office this afternoon for talks with David Lidington, Mrs May’s de facto deputy.
Responding to the fury about Mrs May’s TV broadcast, Business Secretary Greg Clark admitted it was a mistake.
He told the BBC: “It clearly was not a great success. I don’t think it was helpful in resolving the matter. But none of us is infallible. Prime Ministers sometimes don’t get the tone quite right.”
In a sign of the concern sweeping Westminster about the Prime Minister’s recent judgments, former attorney general Dominic Grieve appealed to the Cabinet to intervene to ensure she does not try to crash Britain out of the EU next Friday.
He told the Standard: “Senior ministers need to show some appreciation of the magnitude of this crisis. We are within seven days of crashing out of the European Union without a deal, which many of them have stated would be a catastrophe. What steps are open to prevent this and what are they going to do about it?”
Former Tory minister Nick Boles said Mrs May should consider deploying Mr Lidington to oversee indicative votes. “If the PM finds it difficult to work constructively with MPs on alternative deals, Mr Lidington is someone whom everyone trusts and respects,” he said.
Yesterday EU leaders rejected Mrs May’s plea for a three-month postponement of Brexit and instructed her she could have until May 22 if her deal passes, but only until April 12 if she is defeated a third time.
After Mrs May spoke to leaders, French President Emmanuel Macron was said to have turned to the other leaders and said that before hearing her pitch he thought the chances of her getting the deal through parliament next week were only 10 per cent. “After listening to her, I now think five per cent,” said Mr Macron, according to Politico. Donald Tusk, the European Council President, grimaced and said it sounded too optimistic.
This morning Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel said: “This is perhaps the last chance for Britain to say what it wants for the future.”
At a press conference after midnight, Mrs May tried to mend fences with MPs upset by her TV broadcast on Wednesday. “Last night I expressed my frustration,” she said. “I know that MPs are frustrated too. They have difficult jobs to do.”
Under current UK legislation, the UK will crash out on no-deal terms one week today, unless the Commons manages to pass emergency legislation to delay it next week — which some hardline Brexiteers are hoping to block.