THERESA May has been warned she is facing a wave of resignations if she blocks MPs from voting for a plan to rule out a no-deal Brexit, after the Prime Minister’s ‘Plan B’ was dismissed by Parliament.
Meanwhile former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith has urged her to get tough with Brussels by sending an “politically led” delegation for crunch talks – while saying anyone who thought the House of Commons could act as a government negotiating a trade deal was “living in cloud cuckoo land”. Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd told Number 10 up to 40 ministers could quit unless they are allowed to support a backbench amendment extending Article 50 if a withdrawal agreement is not ratified within weeks. Labour’s Yvette Cooper and former Conservative ministers Sir Oliver Lewin and Nick Boles tabled the amendment, one of several which will be debated and voted on by the Commons on January 29.
Ms Rudd is pleading with Mrs May to allow a free vote on the issue in order to head off a simmering rebellion.
The Times reported a Conservative MP as saying: “Amber is telling Downing Street to make it a free vote on behalf of lots of people.”
Pro-Europe ministers including Ms Rudd, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark are piling pressure on Mrs May to rule out a no-deal withdrawal and pursue a softer exit strategy. While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused to talk to the Prime Minister about a way forward until she “takes no-deal off the table”.
Mrs May has repeatedly refused to rule out no deal, saying doing so is “impossible”.
But Ms Cooper’s amendment would force the government to ask the EU if it would be willing to push Article 50 back until the end of the year, thus delaying Brexit, ion no deal is in place by the end of February.
The Prime Minister unveiled her new proposals yesterday – but her announcement prompted many to suggest there was little difference between those which were voted down comprehensively last week, except the announcement that the £65 fee for EU citizens who want to stay in the UK was being waived. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “This really does feel a bit like Groundhog Day.”
Speaking to Today, Mr Duncan Smith urged Mrs May to play hardball, saying: “What we now need is absolutely, 100 percent, daily political leadership under the Prime Minister, reporting back.”
Meanwhile a senior Austrian minister has warned there was “no time” to make changes to the withdrawal agreement negotiated with Brussels and ratified in December.