‘Toppling me won’t help Brexit,’ UK PM May tells rebel Tory MPs
- Media reports suggest the number of Conservative Party members who say they have no confidence in Britain’s leader has reached 25
Theresa May has said that as far as she knows there are not yet enough Conservative MPs moving against her to spark a leadership contest and replacing her would not help deliver Brexit.
The prime minister is facing open calls for her resignation from pro-Brexit MPs after she released a much-criticised draft agreement to leave the EU.
Following a week of turmoil, in which her government lost two cabinet ministers and several junior ministers, members of the pro-leave European Research Group claimed Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, will have received enough letters to launch a party leadership contest this week.
Speaking on Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News, May said she spoke to Brady at the end of last week and to her knowledge the 48 letters needed to spark a no-confidence vote in her leadership had not yet arrived.
She said her internal critics thinking of replacing her as Conservative leader should think again: “It is not going to make the [Brexit] negotiations any easier and it won’t change the parliamentary arithmetic.”
Asked by Ridge whether she had considered stepping down, May said: “No, I haven’t.”
“Of course it has been a tough week. Actually these negotiations have been tough right from the start, but they were always going to get even more difficult right toward the end when we are coming to that conclusion,” she said.
May said that the next seven days “are going to be critical”, and she would be travelling back to Brussels to talk to figures including Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president.
“I will be going back to Brussels, I will be in touch with other leaders as well, because the summit next week – and it is next week – this special European council, will be among the European leaders,” she said.
May said Dominic Raab, her former Brexit secretary who resigned and claimed the UK could not step away from the Irish “backstop” without the EU’s permission, was wrong.
“We can have debates in Westminster about whether this is the perfect Brexit from this viewpoint or from another viewpoint. What is important is that we deliver it,” she said.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that former Tory London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith and veteran Brexit supporter Bill Cash had written to Brady, taking the running total of MPs openly expressing no confidence in the prime minister to 25.
The 585-page withdrawal agreement, which is due to be signed at a special European summit next week, was published with a shorter document setting out plans for the UK and EU’s future relationship.
At present, there appears to be no parliamentary majority for the deal, which would have to be voted through before final approval. Opposition parties and the government’s partners in the DUP have said they will vote it down. Aides to some pro-Brexit cabinet ministers have hinted they want to change the agreement before it is signed.
May said negotiations were still taking place to put more detail into the future deal proposals, saying it was this part that “delivers on the Brexit vote”.
Raab told The Sunday Times the UK must be prepared to walk away from negotiations if necessary.
If a deal could not be closed “on reasonable terms we need to be very honest with the country that we will not be bribed and blackmailed or bullied, and we will walk away”, he said.