‘SIR Graham Brady has confirmed that he has received 48 letters from Conservative MPs so there will now be a vote of confidence in my leadership of the Conservative Party. I will contest that vote with everything I have got,’ Tory PM May said yesterday morning.
The final letters came in to trigger the no-confidence vote when May pulled out of a vote on her Brexit deal after it became clear that she would be overwhelmingly defeated. She then dashed off to Europe on a whistlestop tour to try and win concessions from the EU over the backstop and then re-sell her Brexit deal to Parliament. Her first stop was Brussels, then off to Germany to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel.
She said: ‘I was due to travel to Dublin this afternoon to continue that work, but will now remain here in London to make the case for my leadership with my Parliamentary colleagues.’ She insisted: ‘A change of leadership in the Conservative Party now will put our country’s future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it.
‘A new leader wouldn’t be in place by the 21st of January legal deadline, so a leadership election risks handing control of the Brexit negotiations to opposition MPs in Parliament.
‘The new leader wouldn’t have time to renegotiate a withdrawal agreement and get the legislation through Parliament by the 29th of March, so one of their first acts would have to be extending or rescinding article 50, delaying or even stopping Brexit when people want us to get on with it.’
Later, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked: ‘I am delighted to see the Prime Minister back in her place after her little journeys. Having told the media this morning that she has made progress, can she now update the House on what progress she has made on her deal?’
She replied: ‘I did travel to Europe yesterday and meet a number of heads of government and the Commission and the European Union Council. That is precisely because I had listened to concerns that were raised in this House and have taken those concerns to Europe.
‘And no one that I met yesterday is in any doubt about the strength of concern there is in this House on the issue of the duration of the backstop.’
Corbyn then demanded the PM take a vote on her Brexit deal before Parliament breaks up for Christmas.
May replied: ‘The honourable gentlemen wants a meaningful date. If he wants one, I will give him one: the 29th March 2019 when we leave the European Union.’ Corbyn then interjected: ‘This House agreed a programme motion, this House agreed the five days of debate, this House agreed when the vote was going to take place, the government tried to unilaterally pull that and denied this House the chance of a vote on this crucial matter.
‘The Prime Minister and her government have already been found in contempt of Parliament. Her behaviour today is just contemptuous of this Parliament. The Prime Minister’s appalling behaviour needs to be held to account by this House and indeed the people of this country are more and more concerned about the ongoing chaos at the centre of her government.’