PM battles to keep Brexit deal alive as opponents circle

Theresa May faces opposition from all quarters as she has less than 48 hours to save her Brexit deal and her job.

Ahead of a further two days of debate over her deal in the Commons, Boris Johnson, Esther McVey and Dominic Raab all refused to rule out running for the Tory leadership during the Sunday politics shows.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, Mr Johnson says MPs want to “bin the backstop”, keep back at least half of the £39bn divorce bill and step up plans for leaving the EU without a deal.

The Sun reports that Home Secretary Sajid Javid is rallying support for a potential leadership bid, while the Sunday Telegraph suggests Penny Mordaunt is choosing between backing the deal and resigning her ministerial post.

News, analysis and expert opinion as the UK gets closer to leaving the European Union 

Even Mrs May’s defence minister Tobias Ellwood has said a second referendum makes sense if her deal isn’t passed quickly enough.

Appearing on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng insisted the “meaningful vote” on Mrs May’s Brexit deal would still go ahead on Tuesday evening, following five full days of debate in the House of Commons.

But senior sources have told Sky News that with limited support for the deal the vote could be delayed, with Mrs May and the government’s chief whip ready to pull the plug as late as Monday night.

© Getty Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay faced questions on Tuesday’s vote

Mrs May has warned her MPs that failing to vote for her deal risks handing the keys to Number 10 over to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, who say they could be ready to form a minority government by Wednesday.

The prime minister spoke to European Council President Donald Tusk and Irish PM Leo Varadkar over the phone on Sunday, ahead of what is set to be a tough week.

Mr Tusk tweeted that it was an “important” week for Brexit. The three will meet in Brussels on Thursday when Mrs May is due to go to the European Council.

Despite early talks of a television debate on the deal between Mrs May and Mr Corbyn, both the BBC and ITV pulled out of hosting a Sunday night showdown.

Channel 4 stepped in the breach, hosting a debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg, Caroline Lucas, James Cleverly and Barry Gardiner.

Green MP Caroline Lucas called for a second referendum, which prominent Tory Brexiteer Mr Rees-Mogg called a “loser’s vote”.

© Sky News Screen Grab Boris Johnson lists his concerns over the proposed Brexit deal

He added: “Everybody agreed to accept the result of the referendum. Now Theresa May has said one thing and come back with a deal that does another.”

Mr Cleverly, the Conservative Party deputy chairman, said: “No one really knows what the Labour Party want at all.

“On March 29 we get to leave, let’s just take the deal and get out.”

Mr Cleverly and Mr Rees-Mogg clashed over the Irish backstop, with Mr Cleverly arguing laws applying to Northern Ireland would be temporary, but Mr Rees-Mogg reminding him of the stark warning from the attorney general that it could be permanent.

Labour pledged to “reset” negotiations with Europe and “take the country forward” should Mrs May lose the support of the house for her deal.

Earlier, Mrs May faced opposition to her deal from three of her former ministers.

In her first broadcast interview since quitting as work and pensions secretary last month, Ms McVey told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “If people asked me [about running for leadership] of course you’d give it serious concern.”

Former foreign secretary Mr Johnson said it was “nonsense” to suggest he had already been offering jobs in a future administration to fellow Tories.

But when asked to give an “absolute, categorical promise” that he would not stand against the prime minister, Mr Johnson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I will give you an absolute, categorical promise that I will continue to advocate what I think is the most sensible plan.”

Asked by Sophy Ridge if he had leadership ambitions, former Brexit secretary Mr Raab replied: “I’ve always said I wouldn’t rule it out.”

There were two rallies in the capital on Sunday, with Tommy Robinson supporters holding a “Brexit betrayal” march, while Momentum turned up to hold a counter-demonstration.

Police would not provide an estimate on crowd size. Momentum said they brought 15,000 protesters and claimed they outnumbered the “Brexit betrayal” march, which included members of the English Defence League, by a rate of five to one.


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