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May scrambles to agree plan B for Brexit ahead of deadline



Theresa May is scrambling to agree a plan B for Brexit as she holds talks with ministers and senior MPs days before she must present a revised deal to parliament.

The PM will spend the weekend at her country retreat, Chequers, but instead of a relaxing weekend she faces crunch meetings as she attempts to come up with a proposal that can win the support of the Commons.

It comes after former foreign secretary Boris Johnson gave a “wide-ranging” speech in Rocester, Staffordshire, in which he challenged Mrs May to use Brexit to bring the country together.

Boris Johnson sets out what he thinks Theresa may should do next


‘This is an ex-deal’ – Boris Johnson

The speech included a pointed intervention in the Brexit process and is seen by many as a thinly veiled leadership bid.

He said: “When 118 Tory MPs voted against this now deceased Withdrawal Agreement it was because Leavers and Remainers were united in the dismay of a deal which keeps us locked in customs union, unable to do free trade deals, cut tariffs on own, make food cheaper, help African farmers and turn us into non-voting members of the single market.”

Mr Johnson claimed big concessions from the EU would only come in the last few days and weeks of Brexit negotiations, adding it was a waste of time to bring more people to the table over the current “ex-deal”.

Mrs May will meet with a number of ministers at Chequers, although it will not be a “cabinet gathering as such”.

A spokesman said: “Clearly she will be discussing the conversations that she had yesterday and they will be discussing the next steps ahead of Monday’s motion and statement.”

There are no plans for her to meet with opposition MPs on Friday, but Mrs May will hold calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Netherlands leader Mark Rutte as “part of her ongoing engagement with European leaders”.

Boris Johnson gives a speech at the JCB Headquarters in Rocester, Staffordshire
Boris Johnson gives a speech at the JCB Headquarters in Rocester, Staffordshire

Labour MP Yvette Cooper tabled a bill with cross-party support which would give MPs more power in the Brexit decision-making process.

The bill is a replacement for a previous attempt by Tory MP Nick Boles to demand an extension to the Article 50 process, to allow negotiations to continue past the 29 March deadline.

Mr Boles’ version, which gave more power to the liaison committee, was criticised by MPs.

He tweeted: “Just to clarify: @YvetteCooperMP EU Withdrawal No 3 Bill removes the provisions relating to the liaison committee and will replace my EU Withdrawal No 2 Bill.

“Same group of MPs sponsoring new bill.”

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has also called for an extension of Article 50, saying Britain was “more divided than during the three-day week of the 1970s or the miners’ strikes of the 1980s”.

In a speech in Edinburgh on Thursday, he called for an extension of a year for Article 50 to be enacted to allow the government to consult the public.

On Friday, it emerged that European Research Group chairman and arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has been given his own weekly radio show.

He will host an hour-long programme on LBC, starting at 6pm on Friday, which will be “packed with callers, opinion and debate”, according to the radio station.

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