Hardcore Brexiteers begin to crack over Theresa May’s Brexit deal

Hardcore Brexiteers who voted against Theresa May‘s withdrawal deal are beginning to crack, as the PM battles to secure the support of 75 more defectors to win her crucial vote next week.

European Research Group (ERG) stalwarts Jacob Rees-Mogg and Iain Duncan Smith are wavering in their opposition to Mrs May’s agreement, sources say, as they face warnings its failure could cause a lengthy delay which could put Brexit itself at risk.

It comes after David Davis made the bombshell decision to vote for the deal on Tuesday, and former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said she would be going through the aye lobby next week ‘the rules have changed’.

European Research Group (ERG) stalwarts Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured on Thursday) are said to be wavering in their opposition to Mrs May's deal

European Research Group (ERG) stalwarts Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured on Thursday) are said to be wavering in their opposition to Mrs May's deal

Mr Duncan Smith on February 28

Mr Duncan Smith on February 28

European Research Group (ERG) stalwarts Jacob Rees-Mogg (left, on Thursday) and Iain Duncan Smith (right, on February 28) are wavering in their opposition to Mrs May’s agreement, sources say

But despite the positive signs Mrs May still faces a difficult task ahead, with senior ERG figures predicting she will lose her third vote by ‘well over 100 votes’, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Mr Duncan Smith is said to have been prepared to back Mrs May’s deal at its second showing if Attorney General Geoffrey Cox had changed his legal advice on the Irish backstop, as was ERG chairman Mr Rees-Mogg.

‘Iain and Jacob were both on the verge, and they are still looking to rat,’ a colleague told The Sunday Times.

Ms McVey, who resigned in protest at Mrs May’s agreement, is insistent that voting with the Prime Minister is now her only option as ‘the rules have changed’.

She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday said this week’s vote to rule out No Deal had left MPs facing the choice between ‘this bad deal and no Brexit whatsoever’.

‘When I resigned there was still a chance to get a better deal or no deal – which is what we stood on in our party manifesto – but this week the government and parliament conspired to take no deal off the table. So I will be holding my nose,’ she said.

Meanwhile, former Brexit Secretary David Davis is rallying support for the deal after his bombshell decision to back it last week.

He joined 15 MP who signed an open letter warning the rebels that they risk losing Brexit entirely. Signatories included Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski – who voted against the Government only last week.

The increase pressure on Tory rebels appears to be having some impact, with Mr Rees-Mogg reportedly ‘snippy’ with Eurosceptic allies urging him not to back down at a gala this week .

Deputy ERG chair Steve Baker is also ‘under great strain’, a colleague told The Sunday Times, with some believing him to still be ‘in play’. Other rejected this assessment, however. 

Esther McVey outside the BBC today

Esther McVey outside the BBC today

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Despite the positive signs Mrs May (seen today outside church) still faces a difficult task ahead, with senior ERG figures predicting she will lose her third vote by 'well over 100 votes'

Despite the positive signs Mrs May (seen today outside church) still faces a difficult task ahead, with senior ERG figures predicting she will lose her third vote by 'well over 100 votes'

Esther McVey, (seen today, left) who resigned in protest at Mrs May’s agreement, said that voting with the Prime Minister (right, also today) is now her only option as ‘the rules have changed’

But so far the number of Tories publicly switching positions has amounted to a trickle rather than the flood the Prime Minister needs to overturn the 149-vote defeat for the deal she suffered on Tuesday.

It comes as Mrs May warned MPs that if they fail to back her Brexit deal at the third time of asking then Brussels might insist on a lengthy delay, potentially scuppering chances of leaving the European Union altogether.

She warned that if MPs did not back her deal before Thursday’s European Council summit ‘we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever’.

Mrs May acknowledged that even if her deal is passed before the summit of EU leaders the Government would need a ‘short technical extension’ beyond the scheduled March 29 Brexit date.

Deputy ERG chair Steve Baker (seen in High Wycombe on June 19 last year, is also 'under great strain' and could be 'in play', a colleague said

Deputy ERG chair Steve Baker (seen in High Wycombe on June 19 last year, is also 'under great strain' and could be 'in play', a colleague said

Deputy ERG chair Steve Baker (seen in High Wycombe on June 19 last year, is also ‘under great strain’ and could be ‘in play’, a colleague said 

Former Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott, writing in the same paper, called Mrs May’s deal ‘far from perfect’, but added: ‘I would rather opt for the risk of a customs union later – a risk that has diminished in recent weeks – than the very real risk of a permanent customs union now. The choice isn’t enviable, but the safer option is clear.’

Meanwhile, talks continued with the DUP, but the party stressed that the presence of Chancellor Philip Hammond at a meeting on Friday did not mean that money was being demanded.

‘We are in discussions with the Government to ensure Northern Ireland is not separated out from the rest of the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union,’ a spokesman said.

‘Contrary to some reports we are not discussing cash. There are still issues to be addressed in our discussions.’

It comes as Liam Fox said Mrs May might not hold another vote on her Brexit deal this week if she is on course to another defeat. 

The International Trade Secretary told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘That would be determined by whether we can succeed in getting that vote through the House of Commons.’

He said it would be ‘difficult to justify having a vote if you knew we were going to lose it’.

He added: ‘I would say to my colleagues: all actions have consequences, and if you really want to deliver the Brexit we all promised… if we actually want to do that then we need to back the Prime Minister’s deal because there is no other deal on offer.’ 

Link hienalouca.com

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