Cabinet ministers demand May save her Brexit deal

What now, Prime Minister? Amber Rudd left frustrated after demanding May find an 11th hour way to save her Brexit plan as 30 ministers hit the road to sell it amid claims No 10 aides have suggested a new referendum

  • Theresa May was confronted by ministers in Downing Street last night on Brexit
  • Amber Rudd said to have asked ‘What do you want to do, Prime Minister’ 
  • But the PM gave only ‘non-committal’ responses to the pleas from ministers  
  • May has dismissed pressure for a delay to Commons vote on her Brexit deal 
  • Parliament will stage the crunch vote on Mrs May’s Brexit package next Tuesday  
  • Ministers desperately searching for way to sweeten her package for Tory MPs  
  • PM considering concessions including Commons ‘lock’ on Irish border backstop 
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Frustrated Cabinet ministers demanded Theresa May come up with an 11th hour plan to save her Brexit deal yesterday as crisis talks discussed likely defeat on Tuesday.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd was among those who asked the PM ‘what do you want to do’, it was claimed today.

Pressure is mounting rapidly on Mrs May ahead of Tuesday’s showdown, amid claims she should try and call off the vote or go back to Brussels before it happens.

Downing Street is making no move in either direction and instead sending 30 ministers on the road to stump for the deal around the country today.

The Prime Minister may not even be able to call off the main vote as it would require winning a procedural vote in the House. She was defeated three times on Tuesday. 

Brussels is maintaining there is no prospect of re-opening the divorce deal, leaving Government whips scrambling to find support among MPs.

A new amendment has been tabled by Tory loyalists overnight setting out a plan for Parliament to vote on whether to enter the backstop or extend transition in 2020.  

But it has already been rejected by the DUP as ‘tinkering’ because the withdrawal treaty insists any decision must be approved by Brussels, whatever MPs say. 

Eurosceptics said Mrs May should take her demands over the backstop straight to Dublin after leaked papers said no deal would be worse for Ireland.

The idea of threatening Ireland was branded ‘morally reprehensible’ by Remain supporters given the history of violence on the border.

In other developments, it was claimed today senior allies of Mrs May have urged her to consider a new referendum on her deal or remaining in the EU – something the PM has repeatedly rejected. 

Frustrated Cabinet ministers demanded Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street last night) come up with an 11th hour plan to save her Brexit deal yesterday as crisis talks discussed likely defeat on Tuesday

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) was among those who asked the PM ‘what do you want to do’, it was claimed today

Last night, Mrs May held around an hour of talks with ministers including Philip Hammond, Ms Rudd, Sajid Javid, Liam Fox, David Lidington, David Gauke, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove and Stephen Barclay.

The Telegraph said today she gave only ‘non committal’ response to pleas for a choice among four possibilities, including delaying the vote. 

Chief whip Julian Smith apparently admitted a defeat by up to 200 votes was not impossible. Many expect the defeat to run to at least three figures without a new plan.

The Cabinet is divided over what to do. One camp, including Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, are advocating delay to the vote.

Others, including Chancellor Philip Hammond, say everything necessary must be done to prevent no deal.

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Sources told MailOnline last night’s meeting was ‘taking stock’ of the situation. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today that Downing Street had been ‘very clear’ that the Brexit vote would not be delayed.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘I think that we should make the argument, make the case and persuade people. That’s what you have parliamentary debate for.’

He added: ‘I don’t know how likely ‘no deal’ is. It is what happens automatically unless Parliament passes something else.

‘I very strongly feel that the best thing for the country, not just for the health service but for the country as a whole, is for Theresa May’s deal to pass.’ 

As wrangling over the vote continues, BuzzFeed News said No 10 aides have raised the prospect of a new Brexit referendum as a way to save the deal.

Mrs May has angrily rejected the idea, sources told the site, because it fails to respect the 2016 vote.  

Environment Secretary Michael Gove (left) and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom (right) were among the ministers at the meeting in No10 yesterday

Ministers will fan out across the country today to sell the deal.  

Mr Hammond will visit a Chertsey school, while Mr Hancock will head to a hospital in Portsmouth where he will announce almost £1 billion of funding for health facilities across England.

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, Mrs May’s de facto deputy, will meet small business leaders in Belfast and Scotland Secretary David Mundell will speak to employers in Glasgow.

What happens now the Brexit deal has been signed off in Brussels?

Theresa May passed a milestone in the Brexit process by agreeing a package with the EU. But there is still a long way to go.

This is what the next steps are: 

December 11: The meaningful vote itself. This is the absolutely crucial moment and could make or break the Prime Minister and her deal. MPs will vote after a debate that could last as long as five days. 

If the vote carries, Mrs May survives and Brexit is on track as she plans. If she loses, she could resign.  

December 13-14: The next EU summit. If the deal has been rejected by MPs, Mrs May could use this to try and secure new concessions. 

January 2019: The European Parliament is due to vote on the deal – but will only do so if it has been agreed in the House of Commons.

March 29, 2019: Exit day. This is written in law so unless there is a dramatic shift Britain will leave the EU, deal or no deal.  

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, meanwhile, will visit engineering companies in Peterborough and the East Midlands.

Mrs May said: ‘We have delivered a deal that honours the vote of the British people.

‘I’ve been speaking to factory workers in Scotland, farmers in Wales and people right across the country, answering their questions about the deal and our future.

‘Overwhelmingly, the message I’ve heard is that people want us to get on with it.

‘And that’s why it’s important that ministers are out speaking with communities across the UK today about how the deal works for them.  

In interview yesterday on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mrs May said her fear was that ‘Parliament in some way frustrates Brexit’. 

The premier also confirmed that she is looking at ways to sweeten her blueprint for mutinous MPs – suggesting there could be a parliamentary ‘lock’ on the Irish border backstop arrangements coming into force. 

A new amendment to Tuesday’s vote was tabled by Tory loyalists overnight setting out a series of Commons votes on using the backstop. 

The plan, from Hugo Swire and Richard Graham, says Parliament should vote in March 2020 on the state of plans to avoid a hard border and whether or not Britain should trigger a transition period extension in June 2020.

The idea is to persuade Brexiteers Britain cannot be forced into the backstop and will not be left inside it forever – despite legal advice saying this could happen.  

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the plan was just ‘tinkering’ and did not change the main problem that Brussels has the power to veto whatever decision Britain makes.

She said: ‘The legally binding international Withdrawal Treaty would remain fundamentally flawed as evidenced by the Attorney General’s legal advice.’ 

Nikki da Costa, the former No 10 director of legislative affairs who quit over the deal, suggested the amendment was a Downing Street plant.

She told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: ‘I know a government amendment when I see one.’   

A new amendment to Tuesday’s vote was tabled by Tory loyalists overnight setting out a series of Commons vote on using the backstop

Nikki da Costa, the former No 10 director of legislative affairs who quit over the deal, suggested the amendment was a Downing Street plant

Mrs May will head to Brussels on December 13, two days after the crunch Commons vote.

If she loses the vote, EU leaders would offer her the chance to extend the Article 50 process to avoid a no-deal Brexit, reported The Telegraph. But Downing Street has ruled this out. 

The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier insisted that the agreement with Theresa May was the only deal on offer.

In a speech at the European Committee of the Regions, he said: ‘I must say once again, today, calmly and clearly: It is the only and the best possible agreement.’

He added that Brexit was a ‘lose-lose’ situation and the deal was an exercise in ‘damage limitation’.

On the issue of the Irish backstop, Mr Barnier said: ‘It is a legally operational form of insurance that will ensure that we never see the return of a hard border, that we have north-south co-operation on the island of Ireland and that we protect the integrity of the single market.

‘The backstop is not there in order to be used, necessarily. We will do our utmost to avoid ever having to use it.’ 

Who are the Tory MPs who have indicated they will not back Theresa May’s Brexit deal?

40. Andrew Lewer, Northampton South

41. Nigel Mills, Amber Valley

42. Martin Vickers, Cleethorpes

43. Richard Bacon, South Norfolk

44. Philip Davies, Shipley 

45. Anne-Marie Morris, Newton Abbot

46. James Gray, North Wiltshire

47. Adam Holloway, Gravesham

48. Crispin Blunt, Reigate

49. Richard Drax, South Dorset

50. Philip Hollobone, Kettering        

51. Laurence Robertson, Tewkesbury 

52. Bill Wiggin, North Herefordshire, 

53. Pauline Latham, Mid Derbyshire 

54. Nigel Evans, Ribble Valley 

55. Scott Mann, North Cornwall 

56. Tim Loughton,East Worthing and Shoreham 

57. Zac Goldsmith, Richmond Park 

58. Robert Courts, Witney 

59. Michael Fabricant, Lichfield 

60. Michael Tomlinson, Mid Dorset and North Poole 

61. Damian Collins, Folkestone and Hythe 

62. Jo Johnson, Orpington 

63. Phillip Lee, Bracknell 

64. Heidi Allen, South Cambridgeshire. 

65. Justine Greening, Putney  

66. Dominic Grieve, Beaconsfield. 

67. Dominic Raab, Esher and Walton 

68. Esther McVey, Tatton  

69. Shailesh Vara, North West Cambridgeshire 

70. Rehman Chishti, Gillingham 

71. Ranil Jayawardena, North East Hampshire

72. Suella Braverman, Fareham 

73. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Berwick-upon-Tweed 

74. Hugo Swire, East Devon 

75. Neil Parish, Tiverton and Honiton 

76. Steve Double, St Austell and Newquay 

77. Theresa Villiers, Chipping Barnet 

78. Royston Smith, Southampton Itchen

 79. Mark Pritchard, The Wrekin 

80. Grant Shapps, Welwyn Hatfield 

81. Damien Moore,Southport 

82. Daniel Kawczynski, Shrewsbury and Atcham

83. Lucy Allan, Telford

84. David Evennett, Bexleyheath and Crayford 

85. Anna Soubry, Broxtowe 

86. Rob Halfon, Harlow 

87. Bob Stewart,  Beckenham 

88. Gordon Henderson, Sittingbourne and Sheppey 

89. Stephen Metcalfe, South Basildon and East Thurrock 

90. John Baron, Basildon and Billericay 

91. Julia Lopez,Hornchurch & Upminster 

92. John Hayes, South Holland and The Deepings 

93. Sarah Wollaston, Totnes 

94. Guto Bebb, Aberconwy 

95. Tracey Crouch, Chatham and Aylesford 

96. Sir Michael Fallon, Sevenoaks 

97. Douglas Ross, Moray 

98. Derek Thomas, St Ives 

99. Sir Robert Syms, Poole  

100. Matthew Offord, Hendon 

101. Sam Gyimah, East Surrey

102. Mark Harper, Forest of Dean, 

103. Giles Watling, Clapton 

104. Johnny Mercer, Plymouth Moor View  

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