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.
Labour MPs said too little had changed for them to come on board.
Some senior Tories will today ask party bosses for a rule change to allow a no-confidence vote in her leadership.
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.
‘Must do better’.
Other senior Tories, including Iain Duncan Smith, 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”.
It’s become a painful ritual of a tortuous process: the prime minister unveils a vision for Brexit, and MPs queue up to demolish it in the House of Commons. On Wednesday it looks like it is going to happen again.
If Theresa May’s speech yesterday sought to attract switchers – and turn sceptics into endorsers – it failed.
Worse than that for Downing Street, some Conservatives who backed the plan when it was last voted on, now say they’ll reject it.
Among many Conservative MPs, there is a bleak, end of days mood. Some wonder if it’s even worthwhile putting the bill to a vote.
Others ponder getting rid of the prime minister even sooner than she’s promised. But those around Theresa May insist they are not willing to give up at least yet – they are determined her plan will be put to MPs in around a fortnight’s time.
Mrs May is bringing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – legislation required to bring her agreement into UK law – back to Parliament in early June.
In an attempt to win over Labour MPs, she announced the following concessions:
- A guarantee of a Commons vote on whether to hold another referendum on the government’s Brexit deal
- A vote on different customs options, including a government proposal for a temporary customs union for goods – what Mrs May called a “customs compromise”
- A legal obligation for the UK to “seek to conclude alternative arrangements” to replace the Northern Ireland backstop by the end of 2020
- If the backstop does come into force, the bill would guarantee Northern Ireland remains aligned with the rest of the UK and remains in same customs territory
- Legislation to ensure workers rights are “every bit as good, if not better” after Brexit – and guarantees of no dilution in environmental standards
- A legal duty to seek changes to the political declaration on future relations with the EU
In a letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, released on Wednesday, Mrs May said: “I have shown today that I am willing to compromise to deliver Brexit for the British people…
“I ask you to compromise too so that we can deliver what both our parties promised in our manifestos and restore faith in our politics.”
But Labour has said it is not willing to back the bill at second reading, meaning it could fail at its first parliamentary hurdle.
And some Conservative MPs who backed Theresa May the last time she tried to get her withdrawal agreement through Parliament in March said they could no longer support her.
On Newsnight on Tuesday, backbench Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said there was “a lot of affection and respect for Mrs May in the party – but a lot of anger at the mistakes that she has made”.
He said the process for a leadership election would be “accelerated”.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds, whose support the government relies on to get its laws passed, said the main problem was the original deal Mrs May negotiated with the EU.