Theresa May is rolling the dice on another vote on her divorce deal tomorrow after finding a way around John Bercow’s ‘sabotage’ of the plan.
The Prime Minister will use what was supposed to be Brexit Day to hold a vote on just the legally binding divorce deal and not the political declaration – meaning the Speaker could not rule it out.
Mr Bercow insisted the rules of the House had been ‘upheld and asserted’ as he gave permission for the PM to hold her vote after hours of behind the scenes wrangling.
Mrs May hopes the symbolism of March 29 will be enough to persuade Tory Brexiteer rebels and the DUP to finally back down and endorse the deal. The DUP and most Tory rebels have made clear they have no intention of backing down.
If the Government wins it would mean Britain is on track to leave the EU on May 22 – but it would not count as a proper vote to ratify the deal as it excludes the political declaration. This means it is not ‘meaningful vote’ three.
The PM offered to stand down and sacrifice her job in return for the backing of Tory rebel MPs including Boris Johnson last night, but it still looks unlikely that she has the numbers to win a vote after the DUP refused to fall in line and support her.
More chaos looms if the vote does not succeed tomorrow – Britain’s departure from the EU will be rescheduled to April 12, MPs will then try to take control of the process and likely try to force May to adopt a softer Brexit. Ministers have threatened to call a general election if that happens.
David Lidington and Geoffrey Cox paved the way for tomorrow’s vote in a meeting with the Speaker this morning.
MPs have been ordered to attend Parliament tomorrow, cancelling what was supposed to be a day in their constituencies.
Speculation has been rife all week that Mrs May would try to bring back her deal for a third ‘meaningful vote’ that would approve the deal if she had any hope of winning. Her hopes still appear bleak.
Speaker John Bercow (pictured today in the Commons) has warned the Government it can only have a third vote on the deal if the question is ‘substantially’ different
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (left today) and David Lidington (right today) confronted John Bercow this morning to establish whether he would allow a new vote on the Brexit deal
The DUP’s continued refusal to back the deal makes it appear an impossible mission – but passing the divorce deal this week is the only way to leave the EU by May 22.
Speaker Bercow threw a further spanner in the plans by insisting any new vote must be on a ‘substantially’ different question to the last one.
But this afternoon Commons Speaker John Bercow said the motion the Government intends to put before MPs on Friday ‘complies with the test’ because it is ‘new and substantially different’.
After swerving that ruling, Mrs Leadsom said tonight: ‘As I set out to the House today, the European Union will only agree an extension until 22 May if the Withdrawal Agreement is approved this week.
‘Tomorrow’s motion gives Parliament the opportunity to secure that extension.
‘I encourage all MPs to support it and ensure that we leave the EU on the 22nd May, giving people and businesses the certainty they need.’
Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would oppose the divorce treaty if it was presented alone – insisting the party will not back a ‘blind Brexit’.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, raising a point of order, sought to reassure MPs about the Government’s latest Brexit motion linked to the Withdrawal Agreement.
He said: ‘When the House listens to the rationale behind it, when it hears the full context of it, I’m sure the House will accept it is not only perfectly lawful, perfectly sensible and is designed to give this House an opportunity of availing itself of a right the European Union has given to us to avail ourselves of an extension until May 22.
‘The view of the Government is simply we could not let the time limit expire at 11pm tomorrow, of allowing this House the opportunity of availing itself of that right. It is perfectly reasonable and it is perfectly lawful.’
The meeting with the Speaker shortly before Commons leader Andrea Leadsom made a cryptic announcement about a debate and vote tomorrow
David Cameron refuses to say who he thinks should replace Theresa May
The ex-Tory leader, who quit after leaving the failed Remain campaign in the 2016 election said two of four main factions in the Commons – spanning all opinions on Brexit – would have to ‘compromise’.
But he declined to say who he would back to replace
He said: ‘The basic problem is that Parliament is stuck.
‘There are four groups in Parliament; people who want the PM’s deal, people who want no deal, people who want a second referendum and people who want a softer Brexit.
‘We – the Government – has to try and find a way of getting at least two of those groups to work together, to combine their options, to compromise to find that partnership agreement and I hope that is what will happen.’
The Prime Minister must secure Commons approval for her deal by 11pm on Friday if the UK is to be given an automatic delay to May 22 of the date on which it leaves the EU.
Friday’s debate, on a day when the Commons was not due to be sitting, is dependent on a business motion being moved and passed by the House later on Thursday, and on Speaker John Bercow deeming that the Government’s proposal is in line with parliamentary rules which ban the same motion being repeatedly tabled.
Ms Leadsom also signalled that all or part of the Commons’ Easter recess – due to start on April 4 – may be cancelled.
Amid the wider political chaos, Boris Johnson today pronounced Mrs May’s Brexit deal ‘dead’.
Mrs May is fighting to pass her Brexit deal by the end of the week and must win a vote tomorrow if Britain is to leave the EU by May 22.
She yesterday offered to stand down if her deal passes in return for the backing of Johnson and his fellow Brexiteer rebels.
After that offer, the former Foreign Secretary swung behind the PM after months of criticising her deal as ‘an appalling humiliation’ and a ‘historic mistake’.
Now he appears to be turning on the PM by calling the deal ‘dead’ and insisting May steps down even if her deal fails, according to allies who spoke to the Evening Standard.
His U-turn comes after the DUP and up to 25 hardcore Tory rebels said they would still oppose the deal, seemingly sinking any chance of it passing this week.
If the deal fails, Britain is on track for a No Deal Brexit on April 12 unless a longer extension is negotiated with Brussels or Brexit it cancelled altogether.
Boris Johnson today branded Theresa May’s Brexit deal ‘dead’ – less than 24 hours after he sensationally backed it – and will call on Mrs May to quit even if she doesn’t deliver Brexit
Brexit ‘black hole’ caused by MPs ‘chasing rainbows’ is costing jobs, say business leaders
Jobs are being lost and firms are going to the wall because of the ‘Brexit black hole’ of uncertainty over the British economy, a business leader said.
In an angry tirade at Westminster’s politicians, British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall hit out at the ‘political turmoil’ caused by Brexit and warned that the country was not ready for a ‘messy’ no-deal scenario.
There was already a ‘growing list of business casualties’ and ‘in many parts of our economy, real world damage is happening right now’.
Dr Marshall said firms faced: ‘Increased costs. Orders lost to competitors elsewhere. Contracts unrenewed or put on hold.
‘Investments postponed, cancelled or diverted elsewhere. Queries from customers that simply can’t be answered.’
He added: ‘Business want to get on and escape from the gravitational pull of the Brexit black hole that has sapped energy, investment and business confidence for far too long.
‘But uncertainty is generating a growing list of business casualties and a litany of rising costs. That damage is happening right now.’
In a stark message to MPs he said: ‘To Westminster we say – we are frustrated, we are angry, you have let British business down.
‘You have focused on soundbites not substance, tactics not strategy and politics not prosperity.
‘Listening without hearing.’
MPs could back Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, agree to a long extension to the Brexit process in order to work out a fresh plan or revoke Article 50 altogether and commit to EU membership for the immediate future, he said.
He acknowledged the options were all controversial but MPs could not carry on ‘chasing rainbows’.
‘Like all of us in business, they need to start making tough decisions, however personally or politically difficult they might be,’ Dr Marshall said.
On Monday, MPs will continue their attempts to force a soft Brexit such as a Customs Union on Mrs May before April 12 – and her ministers have threatened to call a general election rather than be railroaded into breaking her manifesto promises.
If the government does call an election, it is likely to ask for another delay to Brexit from the EU so May can step down and a new Tory leader can be selected.
The PM’s would-be successors including favourites Michael Gove and Boris are already circling, the latter after finally supporting her deal despite months of trashing it.
The PM also faces opposition to her deal from up to 25 hardcore Brexiteer Spartans who still refuse to back her deal, leaving her needing to win over up to 30 Tory rebels.
Tory rebel Mark Francois said today: ‘I wouldn’t vote for it if they put a shotgun in my mouth. I am not voting for the deal on the basis of who is or is not the Prime Minister.
‘I am not voting for the deal because I have read it. Nothing has changed – so I’m still happy to vote it down. The British people voted to leave the European Union – let’s just leave’.
Yesterday, in an emotional speech, Mrs May told Tory MPs she would quit ‘earlier than intended’ if Parliament backed her withdrawal agreement.
There were initial signs that her gamble might pay off when a string of Eurosceptic MPs, led by
But, in a bombshell announcement shortly before 9pm, the DUP’s said it would not support the agreement because it posed ‘an unacceptable risk to the integrity of the UK’.
The party’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds indicated it would vote against the plan, saying: ‘We don’t abstain when it comes to the Union.’
The DUP’s support is seen as critical to unlocking the backing of dozens of Eurosceptic MPs and Mrs May’s close friend Damian Green, a former minister, says the PM will not give up trying today.
If her deal fails then Parliament is likely to demand she asks the EU for a softer Brexit or draw up a second referendum – and the PM would then be expected to call a general election because it would tear up the Tory manifesto.
She has not ruled out staying to lead the party in a snap election but allies said that they hoped she will because she is seen as one of the few ‘adults in the room’, one source told The Times.
Tory leadership candidate Michael Gove leaves home for a run today today as the Prime Minister fights to save her deal. Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured today) has urged hardline Eurosceptics to back Theresa May or face losing Brexit
Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he still backs the PM’s deal and is hoping the DUP ‘come over’ to it.
Tory Mark Francois said today he wouldn’t vote for the PM’s deal even with a gun in his mouth
He also praised Mrs May’s behaviour yesterday and said she ‘deserves support’.
Speaking to reporters in London, he said: ‘I’m in favour of the deal and I hope the DUP will come over to the deal but we’ll have to wait and see what they do.’
Asked if he would be speaking to the DUP’s leader after she again ruled out backing the deal on Wednesday night, he said: ‘I have no plans to speak to Arlene Foster but I do have conversations with the DUP from time to time in the ordinary course of events.’
He added: ‘The Prime Minister behaved very nobly yesterday and I think she does deserve support at this stage.
‘I don’t like her deal. I make no bones about this. I don’t think the deal’s suddenly got better, simply that the alternative is now worse.
‘It’s not having any Brexit at all and it’s letting down the 17.4 million people who voted to leave.’
Damian Green, Theresa May’s former de facto deputy, has said she will carry on working to get a Brexit deal.
‘She will take the path of soldiering on because she sees the great duty of her and her Government is to get a Brexit deal. She will carry on for as long as she is Prime Minister doing that,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘I know there is a desire for new leadership’: May’s promise to QUIT if MPs vote for the deal
‘This has been a testing time for our country and our party. We’re nearly there. We’re almost ready to start a new chapter and build that brighter future.
‘But before we can do that, we have to finish the job in hand. As I say, I don’t tour the bars and engage in the gossip – but I do make time to speak to colleagues, and I have a great team in the Whips’ Office. I also have two excellent PPSs.
‘And I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and I won’t stand in the way of that.
‘I know some people are worried that if you vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush on into phase two without the debate we need to have. I won’t – I hear what you are saying.
‘But we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit.
She addded: ‘I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.
‘I ask everyone in this room to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty – to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit.’
‘Absolutely the last thing the country would need now would be a prime minister who walked away and said ‘OK, choose someone else’. This is very serious. The next few days are really the crunch.’
Mr Green said the choice for MPs now lay between Mrs May’s deal and a customs union – the option which came closest to winning a majority in Wednesday’s indicative votes.
‘If you want a deal, the choice is now between the Government’s deal or a customs union. The customs union was only eight votes off winning yesterday,’ he said.
‘That’s a slightly softer Brexit than the Government’s deal. So that’s the choice that faces MPs, even the most hard Brexit MPs.’
David Lidington, effectively Theresa May’s deputy prime minister, pleaded with MPs to back the Brexit deal.
At the British Chambers of Commerce conference he said: ‘I recognise the real frustration that uncertainty around this process has caused in the business community.’
He added: ‘From the Prime Minister down, the Government is doing all it can to secure a Brexit that does follow the result of the 2016 referendum but does so in a way that protects jobs and economic growth.’
Mr Lidington acknowledged that a ‘chaotic, disorganised Brexit without an agreed deal is something we should not be seeking to have’.
Downing Street was last night locked in frantic talks with the party in the hope of persuading the DUP’s ten MPs to support the deal.
‘They are tough negotiators,’ one source said. ‘It’s not over yet.’
But one Cabinet minister said: ‘If they don’t move, then we don’t have the votes.’
What sort of Brexit DO MPs want? Commons shows support for a second referendum, a customs union and Labour’s plan for a soft Brexit but with no clear majority for any option
The backbench plot to snatch control of Brexit hit a wall last night as none of the alternatives to Theresa May’s deal secured a majority – but MPs still showed Britain they favour a softer Brexit or a second referendum – and will never deliver No Deal.
Last night, in an unprecedented move, politicians seized control of the Commons timetable from Theresa May to hold so-called indicative votes.
The poll showed Parliament is close to agreeing on a soft Brexit with a plan for the UK remaining in a customs union with the EU defeated by 272 votes to 264, while a second referendum was rejected by 295 votes to 268.
MPs were handed green ballot papers on which they voted Yes or No to eight options, ranging from No Deal to cancelling Brexit altogether. However, the votes descended into shambles as MPs rejected each and every one of the proposals – although its architect Sir Oliver Letwin always warned there wouldn’t be a winner first time.
Ten Tories – including ministers Sir Alan Duncan, Mark Field and Stephen Hammond – supported an SNP plan to give MPs the chance to revoke Article 50 if a deal has not been agreed two days before Brexit. Some 60 Tory MPs backed the option of remaining in the single market.
These are the results of last night’s indicative votes on Brexit, in order of preference. It shows that while MPs can’t find a consensus they lean heavily towards a softer Brexit or second referendum
Tory MP Oliver Letwin (pictured in the Commons today) began today’s proceedings after his amendment on Monday night tore up the usual Commons agenda to allow last night’s votes
The results of Wednesday’s votes, in order of preference, were:
- Confirmatory public vote (second referendum) – defeated by 295 voted to 268, majority 27.
- Customs union – defeated by 272 votes to 264, majority eight.
- Labour’s alternative plan – defeated by 307 votes to 237, majority 70.
- Revocation to avoid no-deal – defeated by 293 votes to 184, majority 109.
- Common market 2.0: defeated by 283 votes to 188, majority 95.
- No Deal: defeated by 400 votes to 160, majority 240.
- Contingent preferential arrangements – defeated by 422 votes to 139, majority 283.
- Efta and EEA: defeated by 377 votes to 65, majority 312.
Shadow housing minister Melanie Onn resigned after Jeremy Corbyn ordered his MPs to back a raft of soft Brexit plans, as well as a second referendum.
Some 27 Labour MPs defied the whip to reject a so-called ‘confirmatory vote’ on any Brexit deal. The party had instructed them to support the plan just hours after one of its senior frontbenchers publicly warned that it would be a mistake.
Sir Oliver Letwin, the architect of the Commons move, today insisted the indicative votes were not intended to give a precise answer right away – and will hold another round of votes on Monday.
MPs are due to hold a second round of votes – unless Mrs May can get her deal through first – after none of the eight options debated on Wednesday was able to command a majority. It could be that the eight options are cut down to the most popular.
Sir Oliver told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘At some point or other we either have to get her deal across the line or accept that we have to find some alternative if we want to avoid no deal on the 12th, which I think at the moment is the most likely thing to happen.
‘At the moment we are heading for a situation where, under the law, we leave without a deal on the 12th, which many of us think is not a good solution, and the question is ‘Is Parliament on Monday willing to come to any view in the majority about that way forward that doesn’t involve that result?”
MPs will take control of the Commons order paper again on Monday, so they can narrow down the options if Mrs May’s deal has not been agreed by then – or pass legislation to try and impose their choice on her. Speaking in the Commons after the results, Sir Oliver said: ‘It is of course a great disappointment that the House has not chosen to find a majority for any proposition.
‘However, those of us who put this proposal forward as a way of proceeding predicted that we would not even reach a majority and for that very reason put forward a … motion designed to reconsider these matters on Monday.’
The ‘Stop Boris’ Tory leadership ‘dream ticket’? Sajid Javid’s team are trying to convince Michael Gove to stand aside and accept being Chancellor to install ‘The Saj’ in No 10 to sabotage Johnson
As Tory leadership jockeying gathers pace, MailOnline understands allies of Sajid Javid are contemplating a ‘dream ticket’ with Michael Gove that could see the pair move into No10 and No11 respectively.
They are mulling whether Jeremy Hunt could be offered Home Secretary to drop his candidacy as part of the pact, while Penny Mordaunt and Andrea Leadsom could also be handed promotions to fall into line.
There are fears that unless the main Cabinet contenders come to an arrangement between themselves their support could splinter, opening the door for Boris Johnson.
Many believe that if he gets enough endorsements from MPs to be in the final two voted on by Tory activists he will win, but his support on the backbenches is limited.
A senior Tory source described Javid as PM and Gove as Chancellor as a ‘grown up and sensible solution’ that would match the current Environment Secretary’s strategic thinking with the Home Secretary’s public appeal and bring ‘stability’ at the top of the party.
‘We know Michael Gove’s limitations in terms of public appeal, Lynton Crosby made that very clear in 2014. He has some clear challenges to get over the line without many of the Brexit supporters who will never forgive what happened with Boris Johnson in 2016.
‘Sajid Javid has broad support around the country, the polling evidence proves that. And the fact that he has a back story that no one else in the party has.’
More than a dozen Tory MPs are poised to launch bids for the leadership after Theresa May announced she will quit if her Brexit deal is voted through.
Another MP said today: ‘It’s like the start line of the Grand National, but in the end Becher’s Brook finds many out.’
Sajid Javid in Downing Street yesterday. Rmours are growing of a joint ticket that would see him enter Number 10 with Michael Gove as Chancellor
The betting favourite to take over the mantle at the moment is ardent Brexiteer Michael Gove (pictured right), with Boris Johnson (pictured left) a close second
As many as eight Cabinet ministers are expected to put their names forward, with Hunt, Gove and Javid among the frontrunners.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is seen as a strong outside bet, along with Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd is weighing up whether to run.
Among the Cabinet outsiders are Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom, who finished second in the 2016 leadership contest that Mrs May won, but is expected to have another tilt, along with Brexiteer International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.
Outside the Cabinet, the leading contenders are former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, both of whom quit Government posts over Mrs May’s Brexit plans and will be vying for votes among Eurosceptic MPs.
Other MPs attempting to garner support for a run include former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, Tory party vice-chairman James Cleverly, foreign affairs select committee chairman Tom Tugendhat, justice minister Rory Stewart and backbench MP Johnny Mercer.
Last night one MP said: ‘It’s going to be like Ben Hur – there’ll be a cast of thousands.’
Dominic Raab (pictured left) and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured right) are also strong betting favourites
Sajid Javid (pictured left) and Andrea Leadsom (pictured right) are also possible future leaders
Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, and ardent Remainer, and Chief Secretary to the treasury Liz Truss might also fancy a run at the leadership
Nigel Evans, joint-secretary of the backbench 1922 Committee, said: ‘There’s going to be more runners and riders than the Grand National.’
How successor will be chosen
- If Mrs May’s deal goes through, the UK is likely to leave the EU on May 22 and she would resign as Tory leader that day but stay on as interim PM while the contest to replace her begins.
- Any Tory MP can stand but they need two nominations from colleagues.
- A series of secret votes would be held every Tuesday and Thursday among the 314 members of the Conservative Parliamentary Party.
- The last-placed candidate is eliminated at every stage and once it is clear who the front-runners are the back-markers usually drop out and support someone else.
- After David Cameron stood down following the referendum in 2016 there were five candidates in the first round, who were whittled down to two: Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom.
- The final two candidates then move on to the second phase, when party members vote by postal ballot.
- Candidates will be expected to make speeches to members and tour the country to try to win support. This second phase is likely to last for up to a month.
- Only members who have been in the party for three months or more can vote in a leadership contest, so joining now would not entitle you to a say.
- Conservative sources say the whole process could be completed within a month to six weeks.
Last night, bookmakers Ladbrokes installed Mr Gove and Mr Johnson as early joint favourites at 4/1 and Mr Hunt at 8/1, with Mr Raab and Mr Javid at 10/1. Not all the likely runners are serious about winning the top job, but hope to secure a better job in Cabinet by increasing their profile.
Several of the leading candidates have had ‘shadow’ campaign operations running for months in anticipation of Mrs May going, with supporters discreetly sounding out MPs.
The first phase of the contest will see all Tory MPs vote in a series of rounds to whittle down the candidates to the final two. Party members across the country then vote in a postal ballot to decide the winner.
Last night, No 10 officials said that if Mrs May’s deal goes through in the coming days and the UK leaves the EU on May 22, she will resign as Tory leader but stay on as caretaker until the contest is finished. She would go to Japan for the G20 at the end of June, meaning the contest would last about six weeks.
Mr Hunt has long been seen as a frontrunner because of his seniority and experience, but could suffer from the ‘favourite’ tag. His opponents have labelled him ‘Continuity May’.
Mr Javid’s hopes have taken a series of blows in recent months over his handling of the case of teenager Shamima Begum who ran off from her home in east London to join Isis, and for his claim to be taking control of a migration crisis while on holiday in South Africa.
Allies of Mr Johnson believe if he gets to the final round he is likely to win because of his huge popularity among grassroots Tories.
There is also speculation about Mr Johnson and Miss Rudd forming a powerful joint ticket, which would bring together a leading Brexiteer and a leading Remainer and could help reunite the party.
Mr Gove’s prospects have sky-rocketed in recent weeks after several barnstorming performances at the despatch box, including his closing speech in the no confidence debate in January when he savaged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.