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Brexit news: Relief for Theresa May as Tory MPs’ bid to change rules to topple her fails

The Independent logo The Independent 24/04/2019 Benjamin Kentish
Theresa May wearing a black shirt © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Theresa May has survived the latest attempt to oust her from office after senior Conservative backbenchers decided not to change party rules to allow a second vote of no confidence in her.

The 1922 Committee, which represents Tory MPs, rejected calls by Brexiteers to allow such a vote to be held as early as June – sticking to a restriction which will prevent the challenge before December.

Under current party rules, a vote of no confidence can only be held once a year. Ms May saw off an attempt to topple her last December, meaning another vote cannot take place until the end of the year.

Eurosceptic critics of the prime minister had asked the 1922 Committee executive to change the rules to allow another vote to be held six months after the first. Executive members held two meetings to discuss the proposal but eventually decided not to support it.

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Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the committee, said the issue was now “settled” and that there was “not a mood to revisit this matter in the near future”.

However, he said Ms May will be asked to provide “clarity” on when she plans to step down if she is unable to get a Brexit deal through parliament.

The decision of the 1922 executive was announced at a meeting of Conservative MPs on Wednesday evening.

Sir Graham told reporters afterwards that the committee had decided “there should not be a rule change to remove the 12-month period of grace rule”.

On Ms May’s future, he said: “She has set out some clarity on when she would go in the event that the withdrawal agreement didn’t pass. We’ve asked for clarity on all other circumstances.”

He added: “The 1922 executive is asking on behalf of the Conservative Party and parliament that we should have clear roadmap forward.”

Sir Graham refused to say whether this meant Ms May announcing a specific date for her departure but said he had reminded Tory MPs that they were welcome to write to him to raise concerns about her leadership. He said: “The strength of opinion will be communicated by me to the leadership of the party should they decide to do so.”

One MP present at the meeting said of Ms May: “She’s on notice that she has got to resolve this one way or the other.”

A former cabinet minister said “the vast majority of contributions in the room” supported the decision not to change the rules, while an MP loyal to Ms May joked that it was “the calmest meeting of the 1922 ever”.

One former minister added: “The mood of the committee was that it was content with the decision that had been made. There wasn’t a big row from those who wanted a change. It seemed to be accepted.”

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