Brexit: PM under fire over new Brexit plan

Brexit: PM under fire over new Brexit plan

Theresa May will make the case for her new Brexit plan in Parliament later, amid signs that Conservative opposition to her leadership is hardening.

The prime minister will outline changes to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – including a promise to give MPs a vote on holding another referendum.

But shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the offer was “too weak”.

Some senior Tories will today ask party bosses for a rule change to allow a no-confidence vote in her leadership.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove defended the PM’s plan, urging MPs to “take a little bit of time and step back” to “reflect” on the detail of the bill – due to be published later today.

Fellow cabinet minister and prominent Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom said she was “looking very carefully at the legislation” and “making sure that it delivers Brexit”.

MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU three times, and attempts to find a formal compromise with Labour have failed.

On Tuesday, the prime minister asked MPs to take “one last chance” to deliver a negotiated exit – or risk Brexit not happening at all.

But several Tory MPs have criticised her plan. Among them, Nigel Evans will today urge party bosses on the 1922 committee to change party rules to allow for an immediate vote of no-confidence in Mrs May.

Because the PM survived such a vote in December, the current rules say she cannot face another for 12 months.

The committee has said ‘no’ to such a change before.

Labour MPs have also spoken out against the PM’s plan, with Sir Keir saying all she had offered was votes on customs arrangements and a further referendum that MPs would be able to get anyway as amendments to the bill.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is not a compromise of policy, it is just saying you can have votes on these things.

“In reality, the prime minister ought to now admit defeat. I think she would do well to just pull the vote and pause, as this is just going to nowhere.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable, echoed the point, telling Today: “If [Mrs May] said ‘we will put forward the Withdrawal Bill subject to a confirmatory referendum’… we would be obliged to support it on that basis, but she is barely saying Parliament can have a vote if it wants to have a referendum.

“[That] is not in her gift, Parliament will do that anyway. What appears to be a concession isn’t.”

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said if the government tries to delay bringing the bill forward – expected in the week of 3 June – it is “extremely hard to see” how the prime minister stays in post after the Bank Holiday weekend.

Other senior Tories have suggested Mrs May drops her Withdrawal Agreement Bill to avoid defeat and humiliation.

Conservative MP Boris Johnson – who wants to succeed Mrs May as prime minister – said on Twitter: “We are being asked to vote for a customs union and a second referendum. The Bill is directly against our manifesto – and I will not vote for it.

“We can and must do better – and deliver what the people voted for.”

Meanwhile Dominic Raab, another leadership hopeful, said Mrs May’s deal would “break our clear manifesto promises”.

Tory MP Priti Patel accused the “entire cabinet and especially the so-called Brexiteers in office” of being “responsible for the betrayal” of Leave voters.

She tweeted: “They have undermined our democratic freedoms [and] broken public trust in our politics [and] democratic institutions.”

www.bbc.com