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May pleads for Brexit support as her leadership comes under intense pressure

UK News | Published:

Theresa May urged MPs to back her Withdrawal Agreement Bill amid speculation she could be ousted.

Prime Minister’s Questions

Theresa May has pleaded with MPs to let her Brexit deal pass, as she faced intense pressure to quit after Tories rejected her latest proposals.

The Prime Minister warned that whoever succeeded her would face the same Brexit pressures as she called on MPs to back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB).

In a Commons statement she appeared to acknowledge that her time in office was limited, having already said she will set out a timetable for her departure after the crunch vote on her Bill.

“In time another prime minister will be standing at this despatch box,” she told MPs.

“But while I am here, I have a duty to be clear with the House about the facts.

“If we are going to deliver Brexit in this Parliament we are going to have to pass a Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

“And we will not do so without holding votes on the issues that have divided us the most – that includes votes on customs arrangements and on a second referendum.”

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Conservative Eurosceptics have reacted with fury to the Brexit plan’s offer of a vote on whether to hold another referendum.

Senior Tory MPs will again seek to change party rules to allow a confidence vote in her leadership if she refuses to leave Number 10.

Mrs May said the WAB would be published on Friday and backing it would help get the UK out of the EU by the end of July.

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“We can bring an end to the months – years – of increasingly bitter argument and division that have both polarised and paralysed our politics,” she said.

“We can move on, move forwards, and get on with the jobs we were sent here to do, what we got into politics to do.

“That is what we can achieve if we support this new deal.

“Reject it, and all we have before us is division and deadlock.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks in the Commons (House of Commons)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Prime Minister’s offer was “little more than a repackaged version” of her three-times rejected deal.

He told her: “This Government is too weak, too divided to get this country out of the mess that they have created.”

Earlier, Cabinet minister Michael Gove refused to guarantee that the WAB would now go to the Commons for a vote as planned in early June.

Mrs May had previously promised the Bill would be put before MPs in the week beginning June 3.

Environment Secretary Mr Gove refused to commit to that timetable, saying: “We will reflect over the course of the next few days on how people look at the proposition that has been put forward.”

But on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he stressed “there has to be a vote” on a Bill to implement the Withdrawal Agreement if the UK is to leave the EU with a deal.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright also refused to give a “definitive” commitment to the timetable.

In the Commons, Mrs May said only that the Bill would return “after the Whitsun recess” – Parliament returns on June 4 following the break.

But a Downing Street spokesman insisted “our commitment to have the second reading of that Bill in that week remains”.

Mrs May’s Commons statement, during which she largely repeated the 10-point package set out on Tuesday, followed a muted session of Prime Minister’s Questions during which key Brexiteer ministers were largely absent.

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The beleaguered Prime Minister faces a fresh bid to eject her from Downing Street from key figures on the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, which meets later on Wednesday.

Nigel Evans, who sits on the 1922’s executive, said he would be seeking a rule change to hold another confidence vote and the Prime Minister should “make way for fresh leadership without handcuffing her successor to a poisoned baton”.

POLITICS Brexit

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Following the failed bid to oust her in 2018, under the existing rules Mrs May should be safe from another confidence motion until December.

But European Research Group chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested it would be “more dignified and more elegant” if Mrs May followed the constitutional convention of quitting because she could not command a Commons majority rather than relying on an internal Tory rule change to depose her.

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