The Prime Minister told The Mail on Sunday she would not be deterred by the resignation of Universities Minister Sam Gyimah over a demand for a second referendum – and promised to fight tirelessly during the ‘momentous’ days ahead to win the crunch Commons vote on December 11.
Her remarks, at the G20 summit of world leaders in Buenos Aires, Argentina, came as:
- A cross-party group of MPs tried to crank up the pressure on Mrs May to call a second referendum;
- At least eight Cabinet Ministers lobbied for a Norway-style membership of a customs union if Mrs May loses the vote;
- Tony Blair revealed how the Government had lobbied him to back Mrs May over her deal;
- Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used the summit to issue an appeal to the Prime Minister to prevent a no-deal Brexit;
- Mrs May signalled her confidence that she would still be Prime Minister at Christmas by starting to send out official cards from No 10;
- A Tory MP accused Mrs May of ‘snubbing’ the Falklands by refusing to visit the disputed territory after her trip to Argentina.
How YOU can stop No Deal chaos… by sending MPs this letter
I am writing to you as one of your constituents to ask you, with the greatest respect, to hear what I have to say before you vote on the Brexit Bill in Parliament on Tuesday, December 11. I firmly believe it is in the national interest that you support the Prime Minister’s deal.
I understand that you, like many who voted either Leave or Remain in the 2016 referendum, have reservations about the deal Theresa May has negotiated. Not even the PM is pretending it is perfect. But it is my strong belief that by ending free movement, restoring sovereignty to Parliament and liberating Britain’s fishermen and farmers from EU control, the Withdrawal Agreement delivers much of what 17.4 million voters demanded at the referendum.
For Westminster to turn its back on those voters now would be a dangerous travesty – risking alienating vast swathes of the country from the democratic process for ever. Remember the Government leaflet delivered to every home before the vote said: ‘This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.’ No talk there of a second referendum.
The truth is none of the Prime Minister’s critics have come up with a credible alternative to her plan. The most likely alternative – a departure from the European Union with no deal at all – is a leap in the dark which could do permanent damage to our economy and society. Many wise voices have warned of potential chaos. I believe it is simply a risk not worth taking.
With your support, that perilous prospect can be avoided. You must be aware that the British people are tired of the bickering over Brexit. They just want to agree a deal and move on. The time has come to reunite the country around a wise compromise and begin to heal the wounds.
So I urge you – and all your fellow MPs – to put aside your differences and come together at this historic moment and vote in favour of the Brexit deal on December 11.
This is not a vote for Theresa May. It is a vote for Britain’s independent, secure and prosperous future.
Mr Gyimah said he was resigning from the Government because Mrs May’s deal would mean the UK losing its voice in the EU while still having to abide by the bloc’s rules.
He said: ‘In these protracted negotiations, our interests will be repeatedly and permanently hammered by the EU27 for many years to come.
‘Britain will end up worse off, transformed from rule makers into rule takers… To vote for this deal is to set ourselves up for failure. We will be losing, not taking control, of our national destiny.’
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a press conference after the G20 Leader’s Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Saturday, December 1
His move meant that the No 10 team in Buenos Aires spent Friday battling in vain to avert his resignation – while juggling diplomatically fraught encounters with Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
They were also furious that Mr Gyimah’s resignation – the seventh by a Minister over the issue – overshadowed a carefully timed declaration of support by Environment Secretary and leading Brexiteer Michael Gove.
After the Pizza Plotters and the Gang of Five, No 10. is braced for more resignations from The Breakfast Club
Former Universities Minister Sam Gyimah was spotted plotting in a private room of a hotel in Westminster on Tuesday morning, writes Harry Cole.
He was with a hardcore bloc of Remainer Ministers dubbed The Breakfast Club after the 1980s ‘Brat Pack’ movie that saw five troublesome students forced into early morning detention by an unpopular head teacher.
Mr Gyimah, who resigned on Friday, tucked into eggs and bacon at St Ermin’s Hotel – a favourite haunt of wartime spies – along with Cabinet Ministers Greg Clark and David Gauke, and former Transport Minister Jo Johnson, who resigned the week before.
They were also joined by Business Minister Margot James, who was yesterday forced to clarify that she would not be the next to quit.
‘I fully intend to support the deal the PM is putting to Parliament on December 11,’ she said.
A hardcore bloc of remainer Ministers have been dubbed ‘The Breakfast Club’ after the 1980s cult movie (pictured)
A senior source said: ‘It’s a stab in the back from someone [Mr Gyimah] who hopes to be leader. But the only person tipping Sam for leader is Sam.’
But Mrs May told this newspaper she ‘profoundly disagreed’ with Mr Gyimah for wanting a second referendum and that voting down her deal in an attempt to achieve it would end the Brexit project altogether.
Mrs May said: ‘If you look around the Commons you will see people who are trying to frustrate Brexit. We are nine days from the meaningful vote.
At the end of those nine days we want to be able to look to a bright and certain future.
‘This is a momentous period in our country’s history, and over the next nine days I want to focus on the significance of this vote, because it determines our future’.
It is the second time that Mrs May has been ‘betrayed’ by a Minister over a second referendum while she carried out foreign duties. Last month, Transport Minister Jo Johnson quit while she attended Remembrance services in Europe.
Mrs May insists she can still carry the vote through the Commons on December 11, despite calculations that more than 100 Tory MPs could rebel.
Asked by this newspaper if she expected to be celebrating Christmas as Prime Minister, she said: ‘This has never been about me… actually over the next nine days I am not going to be giving Christmas much thought at all. I am going to be focusing on this deal.’
But it is understood that Mrs May has already started sending the official Prime Ministerial Christmas cards. And she cited her cricketing hero Geoffrey Boycott to say that over the next nine days she would make sure she was ‘steadily scoring those runs, getting that century’.
Mrs May, making the first visit to Buenos Aires by a British Prime Minister, added that she had used the G20 summit ‘have a chat with Donald Trump… we both acknowledged we will be able to do a trade deal’.
Mr Gove warned yesterday that leaving the EU would be under ‘great threat’ if the deal was rejected by MPs. But Mrs May is coming under intense cross-party pressure to agree to a second referendum if she loses the Commons vote, a move that would infuriate Tory pro-Brexit MPs.
A hardcore bloc of remain-supporting Tory Ministers have been dubbed The Breakfast Club after the 1980s ‘Brat Pack’ movie that saw five students forced take on an unpopular teacher. They are Jo Johnson (top), Sam Gyimah (middle right), Margot James (bottom right), David Gauke (centre) and Greg Clark (middle left)
And she is also coming under intense pressure from Cabinet Ministers, led by Chancellor Philip Hammond, and MPs to avert the disruption of a ‘no deal’ by agreeing to remain in a customs union with the EU – described as ‘a Norway-style Plan B’ option – until the crisis can be resolved.
The number of Cabinet Ministers backing the plan is believed to have reached eight.
Last night, a coalition of 16 Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs provocatively released a joint statement calling for a second referendum. The group, including Labour’s Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger along with former Tory Ministers Phillip Lee and Guto Bebb, described December 11 as ‘one of the biggest votes since the Second World War’ and said it ‘was clear it will not command a majority’.
‘Stab in the back’: Sam Gyimah, former Minister of State for Universities and Science resigned late on Friday and twisted the knife by calling for a second Brexit referendum
The group, which was last night hoping to add Mr Gyimah’s name to the call, said it was ‘time the country’s interests are put before any party political advantage… it is vital, given the speed with which events will unfold, that we do not prevaricate during these historic events in ensuring the people are given their rightful seat at the table’.
But Mrs May – if she has not been toppled as leader – will be subject to equal lobbying from Brexiteers to pursue a ‘managed no-deal’.
Despite her public refusal to countenance a second referendum – the so-called People’s Vote – Brexiteers both in and out of the Cabinet fear a ‘stitch up’ if Mrs May loses the vote and is unable to resist the clamour from Parliament for a fresh referendum.
One said: ‘The combination of pro-Remain Tories, most of the Labour Party and the instinctively anti-Brexit Civil Service would want to join forces to create a bogus choice between May’s duff deal and remaining in the EU. We need to head that off now.’
Even former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the options should be ‘the Boris Johnson version of Brexit’ – a clean break – or remaining in the EU.
Leave campaigners are confident they can win a second vote if a clean Brexit is one of the options.
Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the options should be ‘the Boris Johnson version of Brexit’ – a clean break – or remaining in the EU
Activists associated with both Vote Leave, the victorious 2016 campaign group, and Leave Means Leave, the pressure group lobbying for a clean Brexit, have already started preparing for a second referendum. Well-placed sources say their research indicates the vote on both sides has hardened.
One campaign slogan that has been bandied around is: ‘Tell Them Again’ – the ‘them’ being the political elite.
The MoS understands that Mr Blair held a secret meeting with a Government Minister who tried to persuade him to back Mrs May’s deal in exchange for a promise the UK would then pivot to a ‘soft’ Brexit.
Mr Blair told a private dinner last week that he had been approached by a Minister and asked if he would agree to drop his support for a second referendum.
The Minister told Mr Blair that if he backed Mrs May’s deal instead – to keep her in Downing Street – then ‘once we have got through Brexit we can switch to the Norway option instead’.
Under the Norway option, the UK would stay in the single market but could not control freedom of movement.
Mr Blair added that he had been in touch with leaders of EU countries and they all thought Mrs May’s deal was ‘absolute folly’.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands during a bilateral meeting at the Group 20 summit in Argentina on December 1. Mr Abe used the summit to issue an appeal to the Prime Minister to prevent a no-deal Brexit
Mr Abe’s plea, delivered as he met Mrs May at the G20 summit, follows warnings from Japanese companies in the UK over the extra costs and bureaucracy they will face if there is no deal.
Mr Abe told the Prime Minister: ‘I would like to take this opportunity to express my tribute to your leadership in realising the withdrawal agreement as well as the EU’s agreement on the political declaration. Also I would like to once again ask for your support to avoid no deal, as well as to ensure transparency, predictability as well as legal stability in the Brexit process.’
Mrs May has been accused of snubbing the Falkland Islands by refusing to visit the British territory after her trip to Argentina, accepting Foreign Office advice that it would be ‘provocative’. But Tory MP Bob Stewart said: ‘To hell with the Foreign Office.’
Last night, Mrs May batted away claims that this could be her last appearance on the international stage. She told reporters at the summit that she still had ‘a lot more to do, not least deliver on Brexit and be the Prime Minister that took Britain out of the EU’.
Who are the MPs expected to oppose May?
See if YOUR local MP is on the below list of those from every party who are likely to vote down May’s Brexit… and email them this letter
EXPECTED TO OPPOSE
Lucy Allan – Telford
Heidi Allen – South Cambridgeshire
Sir David Amess – Southend West
Steve Baker – Wycombe
Crispin Blunt – Reigate
Peter Bone – Wellingborough
Ben Bradley – Mansfield
Suella Braverman – Fareham
Andrew Bridgen – North West Leicestershire
Conor Burns – Bournemouth West
Sir William Cash – Stone
Maria Caulfield – Lewes
Rehman Chishti – Gillingham and Rainham
Sir Christopher Chope – Christchurch
Simon Clarke – Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland
Damian Collins – Folkestone and Hythe
Tracey Crouch – Chatham and Aylesford
Philip Davies – Shipley
David Davis – Haltemprice and Howden
Nadine Dorries – Mid-Bedfordshire
Steve Double – St Austell and Newquay
Richard Drax – South Dorset
James Duddridge – Rochford and Southend East
Iain Duncan Smith – Chingford and Woodford Green
Nigel Evans – Ribble Valley
Michael Fabricant – Lichfield
Mark Francois – Rayleigh and Wickford
Marcus Fysh – Yeovil
Zac Goldsmith – Richmond Park
James Gray – North Wiltshire
Chris Green – Bolton West
Dominic Grieve – Beaconsfield
Sam Gyimah – East Surrey
Philip Hollobone – Kettering
Adam Holloway – Gravesham
Ranil Jayawardena – North East Hampshire
Sir Bernard Jenkin – Harwich and North Essex
Andrea Jenkyns – Morley and Outwood
Boris Johnson – Uxbridge and Ruislip
Jo Johnson – Orpington
David Jones – Clwyd West
Andrew Lewer – Northampton South
Julian Lewis – New Forest East
No email, write c/o: House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
Julia Lopez – Hornchurch and Upminster
Tim Loughton – East Worthing and Shoreham
Craig Mackinlay – South Thanet
Esther McVey – Tatton
Anne-Marie Morris – Newton Abbot
Sheryll Murray – South East Cornwall
Priti Patel – Witham
Owen Paterson – North Shropshire
Mark Pritchard – The Wrekin
Dominic Raab – Esher and Walton
John Redwood – Wokingham
Jacob Rees-Mogg – North East Somerset
Laurence Robertson – Tewkesbury
Andrew Rosindell – Romford
Lee Rowley – North-East Derbyshire
Henry Smith – Crawley
Sir Desmond Swayne – New Forest West
Ross Thomson – Aberdeen South
Michael Tomlinson – Mid Dorset and North Poole
Anne-Marie Trevelyan – Berwick-upon-Tweed
Shailesh Vara – North West Cambridgeshire
Martin Vickers – Cleethorpes
Theresa Villiers – Chipping Barnet
WILL PROBABLY OPPOSE
John Baron – Basildon and Billericay
Guto Bebb – Aberconwy
Sir David Evennett – Bexleyheath and Crayford
Sir Michael Fallon – Sevenoaks
Justine Greening – Putney
Rob Halfon – Harlow
Trudy Harrison – Copeland
Sir John Hayes – South Holland and The Deepings
Gordon Henderson – Sittingbourne and Sheppey
Pauline Latham – Mid-Derbyshire
Sir Edward Leigh – Gainsborough
Anne Main – St Albans
Scott Mann – North Cornwall
Nigel Mills – Amber Valley
Damien Moore – Southport
Matthew Offord – Hendon
Neil Parish – Tiverton and Honiton
Sir Mike Penning – Hemel Hempstead
Douglas Ross – Moray
Royston Smith – Southampton Itchen
Anna Soubry – Broxtowe
Bob Stewart – Beckenham
Sir Robert Syms – Poole
Derek Thomas – St Ives
John Whittingdale – Maldon
Sarah Wollaston – Totnes
Robert Courts – Witney
Alister Jack – Dumfries and Galloway
John Lamont – Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk
Phillip Lee – Bracknell
Stephen Metcalfe – South Basildon and East Thurrock
Grant Shapps – Welwyn Hatfield
Sir Hugo Swire – East Devon
CONSTITUENCIES WITH STRONGEST ‘LEAVE’ VOTE (Excludes Shadow Cabinet)
Ian Austin – Dudley North
Adrian Bailey – West Bromwich West
Sir Kevin Barron – Rother Valley
Margaret Beckett – Derby South
Clive Betts – Sheffield South East
Sarah Champion – Rotherham
Julie Cooper – Burnley
Yvette Cooper – Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford
Mary Creagh – Wakefield
Judith Cummins – Bradford South
Alex Cunningham – Stockton North
Jon Cruddas – Dagenham and Rainham
Nic Dakin – Scunthorpe
Gloria de Piero – Ashfield
Paul Farrelly – Newcastle-under-Lyme
Caroline Flint – Don Valley
Yvonne Fovargue – Makerfield
Gill Furniss – Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough
Emma Hardy – Hull West and Hessle
Carolyn Harris – Swansea East
Stephen Hepburn – Jarrow
Mike Hill – Hartlepool
Sharon Hodgson – Washington and Sunderland West
Dan Jarvis – Barnsley Central
Graham Jones – Hyndburn
Emma Lewell-Buck – South Shields
John Mann – Bassetlaw
Pat McFadden – Wolverhampton South East
Liz McInnes – Heywood and Middleton
Jim McMahon – Oldham West and Royton
Gordon Marsden – Blackpool South
Ed Miliband – Doncaster North
Grahame Morris – Easington
Lisa Nandy – Wigan
Alex Norris – Nottingham North
Fiona Onasanya – Peterborough
Melanie Onn – Great Grimsby
Stephanie Peacock – Barnsley East
Bridget Phillipson – Houghton and Sunderland South
Jo Platt – Leigh
Yasmin Qureshi – Bolton South East
Emma Reynolds – Wolverhampton North East
Dennis Skinner – Bolsover
Ruth Smeeth – Stoke-on-Trent North
Angela Smith – Penistone and Stocksbridge
Nick Smith – Blaenau Gwent
Gareth Snell – Stoke-on-Trent Central
John Spellar – Warley
Anna Turley – Redcar
Karl Turner – Hull East
IN ‘LEAVE’ SEATS
Tom Brake – Carshalton and Wallington
Norman Lamb – North Norfolk
Stephen Lloyd – Eastbourne
IN ‘LEAVE’ SEATS
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson – Lagan Valley
Paul Girvan – South Antrim
Ian Paisley Jr – North Antrim
Gavin Robinson – Belfast East
Jim Shannon – Strangford
David Simpson – Upper Bann
Sammy Wilson – East Antrim
Independents in ‘leave’ seats
Charlie Elphicke – Dover
Frank Field – Birkenhead
Andrew Griffiths – Burton
Kelvin Hopkins – Luton North
Ivan Lewis – Bury South
John Woodcock – Barrow and Furness
Plaid Cymru in ‘leave’ seat
Jonathan Edwards – Carmarthen East and Dinefwr