You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Brexiteers keep up pressure on PM's leadership

Sky News logo Sky News 17/11/2018 Greg Heffer, political reporter
Theresa May wearing a red shirt and smiling at the camera: Theresa May has been told she could face a confidence vote next week © Getty Theresa May has been told she could face a confidence vote next week

Both Mrs May's draft Brexit deal and leadership of the country have been left in a perilous position this weekend, following a fierce backlash against the agreement she has struck with the EU.

Conservative backbenchers in their constituencies on Saturday were continuing to pore over the details of the draft deal, while also taking soundings from their local associations.

But the prime minister will tomorrow look to push back against criticism of her leadership and sell her proposed Brexit deal to voters during an appearance on Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday show - her first live TV interview since the details were revealed.

Download the all-new Microsoft News app to receive up-to-the minute news from the world’s best sources – available now on iOS and Android

Amid the ongoing turmoil, Mid-Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries told Sky News she would not be surprised if the number of letters of no confidence in Mrs May had already met the threshold of 48 needed to trigger a vote on the prime minister's leadership.

Predicting fellow MPs will "see things moving on Monday", Ms Dorries suggested 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady - who would organise any confidence vote in the prime minister - would soon be double-checking whether MPs had lost faith in Mrs May.

If a vote does occur next week, Ms Dorries predicted many Tory MPs would not want to give the prime minister a year's protection from another challenge by voting in favour of her leadership.

Under Conservative Party rules, if a leader survives a confidence vote they cannot be challenged again for another 12 months.

With the DUP - the Tories' Northern Irish allies who prop up Mrs May's minority government at Westminster - among the strongest critics of the draft Brexit deal, Ms Dorries predicted voters could soon be asked to go to the polls.


She said: "If the DUP walk away we have no majority and therefore, by default, we would be going into a general election with Theresa May leading us into that election.

"Now, you need half of the Conservative Party to vote not with her for a vote of no confidence.

"But I think you would find 90% of the Conservative Party MPs - if not more - who do not want the scenario of having a general election unplanned and with Theresa May leading us into that general election."

Ms Dorries added: "MPs will think to themselves, 'If I vote to keep the prime minister in place she's going to be there for the next 12 months when anything could happen, is that what I want?' And I think most MPs will vote 'no'."

She also defended her description of the Brexit deal as leaving the UK as "slaves" to the EU.

"I would call us a vassal state, an empty state, I'd call it serfdom, it's appalling," Ms Dorries said.

"It's actually beyond almost belief Number 10 - although they're spinning like mad - think they can sell this to the country. They can't, people can see right through it."

The Brexiteer also told Mrs May her draft agreement with Brussels "doesn't stand a cat in hell's chance of getting through parliament".

There are 21 Tory MPs who have publicly declared, or confirmed to Sky News, they have submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister.

But one of those, Mansfield MP Ben Bradley, claimed the number was "significantly" higher and he could name "five or six more" MPs.

He said: "There are some colleagues who think they can name 50 people. I'll guess we'll find out in the coming days, but I think it's an awfully lot closer [a confidence vote] than it was a week or so ago."

Further Tory MPs stated their opposition to the draft Brexit deal on Saturday, with former minister Sir Hugo Swire, the East Devon MP, posting on Twitter: "I remain unhappy about parts of the proposed Brexit deal but I have not sent a letter in calling for a vote of no confidence in the PM.

"I shall continue to take soundings over the weekend."

And Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps, who led an attempt to oust Mrs May last year, described the draft deal as "very problematic" after studying all 585 pages of the agreement.


He demanded two key changes for the draft deal to win his support; a "unilateral" means for the UK to leave the Irish border backstop arrangement, and the terms of the future UK-EU relationship to be fleshed out beyond its current "flimsy" seven pages.

Members of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteer MPs are planning to use the rest of the weekend to continue their media attacks on the prime minister and her draft deal.

But Downing Street has also begun its own fightback against the attempt to force out Mrs May.

The prime minister held a conference call with hundreds of Conservative constituency chairs on Friday in a bid to persuade them to support her.

"I got the impression that people want to support her, but are struggling," one of those listening told the ConservativeHome website.

Mrs May also used a newspaper interview to reveal rare details of her marriage and life inside Number 10 following what she termed a "pretty heavy couple of days".

The prime minister told the Daily Mail how her husband Philip poured her a whisky after Wednesday's marathon cabinet meeting.

He then cooked beans on toast for Mrs May in their Downing Street flat after a bruising day on Thursday, when the prime minister saw a series of ministers resign from her government and efforts made to remove her from power.

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell told Sky News there was a "clear majority" against the prime minister's draft Brexit deal in parliament, as well as a "no-deal" Brexit.

Calling for a general election in order to allow Labour to negotiate a different agreement with Brussels, Mr McDonnell denied this would require a delay to the UK's exit from the bloc in March next year.

He said: "We can do it within the timescale itself, I accept that.

"That's the frustration that we've got, right the way across the House of Commons, the frustration of why have the last two years been wasted."


More from Sky News

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon