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May’s government is piling pressure on pro-Brexit MPs to back her deal

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theresa may brexit conservative mps.JPG
Theresa May is piling the
pressure on rebel MPs to back her Brexit deal.

Getty

  • Senior figures in Theresa May’s government tell
    Business Insider they believe pro-Brexit rebel MPs will
    ultimately fold and support her Brexit deal.
  • They predict the fear of a second referendum and a
    tough whipping operation will bring Conservative MPs in
    line. 
  • However, furious pro-Brexit MPs deny this and tell
    Business Insider that May will suffer a leadership challenge
    within weeks.
  • “She is incredibly sneaky and backstabbing. She’s quite
    conniving. It’s like the dying days of Thatcher where she
    wouldn’t listen to anyone,” one Tory Brexiteer tells
    BI.

LONDON — Theresa May is piling the pressure on pro-Brexit
Conservative MPs to vote for her Brexit deal, as one Tory MP told
Business Insider that they expect her to face a leadership
challenge within weeks.

More than 50 Conservative MPs from the pro-Leave European
Research Group have joined the “Stand Up For Brexit” organisation
which is opposed to the prime minister’s handling of negotiations
and Chequers proposals.

However, a minister in May’s government told BI that the threat
of a possible EU referendum if a deal agreed in Brussels is
defeated in Westminster, combined with an aggressive whipping
operation, will ultimately convince Tories who oppose May’s plan
to vote for it.

“One of the unintended consequences of the campaign for another
referendum is it that it has scared Brexiteers into backing a
Chequers-style compromise deal,” the minister said.

Another influential Conservative MP agreed, telling BI that
Brexiteers would not want to risk re-opening the question of
whether Brexit should go ahead.

I’m amazed we haven’t reached [the 48 letter threshold for
toppling May] yet. But it will come… in the next few weeks.

“Are they [the ERG] really going to put it all at risk in the
final moments, the dream they have spent their whole lives
pursuing, just because it isn’t 100% perfect?” the MP asked.

However, a senior member of the ERG told Business Insider that
pro-Brexit MPs would hold firm against the deal.

“I should look at those MPs who have pledged to Stand up for
Brexit because there are over 50 of those and that pledge means
you are not going to vote for Chequers or any derivative of it,”
Andrew Bridgen MP told BI.

“I think a large majority of ERG members will find they are
unable to vote for a deal that will put £39 billion for the
promise of a deal in the future.”

Bridgen dismissed the idea that pro-Brexit MPs would abandon
their principles due to pressure from whips.

“They’ve not tried that tactic with me but it wouldn’t surprise
me. They tried that with the Maastricht rebels and I think Iain
Duncan Smith went quite far in the party didn’t he?”

Bridgen was backed by another ERG MP, who told BI: “Ministers are
either are flying a kite or trying to flush out MPs who could be
going wobbly. But it’s going to fail because they need concrete
evidence.

“The public statements ERG members are making [against May’s
Brexit plans] are only getting stronger.”

Bridgen, who has already submitted a letter to Conservative party
authorities calling for a vote of no confidence in May, told BI
that he expected the threshold for a leadership challenge to be
met within weeks.

“I’m aware of at least two letters of no confidence that have
gone in since the 1922 committee the week before last,” Bridgen
told BI.

“I’m amazed that we haven’t reached [the 48 letter threshold]
yet. But it will come… in the next few weeks.”

I don’t want to be a PPS or minister in this shambles.

The Conservatives’ whipping operation has stepped up in recent
weeks with pro-Brexit MPs put under increasing pressure to remain
loyal.

One Conservative MP predicted that pro-Brexit Conservatives with
ministerial ambitions will gradually “peel away” in the coming
weeks under pressure from government whips.

“The whipping operation will smarten up and various other offers
will be made,” they said.

“If you vote against the government then you lose your PPS role
and if you believe you are in a chance of potentially becoming a
minister at some point then that is a pretty brave move,” they
added.

However, a member of the ERG told BI that while they had been
warned by whips that they’d lose their job as parliamentary
private secretary if they opposed May’s deal, “I don’t want
to be a PPS or minister in this shambles [anyway].”

Pro-Brexit MPs are furious with ‘backstabbing’ May


Theresa MayGetty

Another ERG member told BI that pro-Brexit MPs were simply too
furious with the prime minister’s handling of Brexit to ever back
her plans.

The MP, who attended the most recent 1922 committee meeting of
Tory MPs, said they were “so, so angry” with May, who
they believe “has made clear that she has no intention to work
with the ERG anymore.”

[May] is incredibly sneaky and backstabbing. She’s quite
conniving. It’s like the dying days of Thatcher where she
wouldn’t listen to anyone.

They added that the recent meeting — which was reported as an
outpouring of support for the embattled prime minister — was “so
stage-managed” with pre-arranged questions “so there was no room
for dissent.”

They told BI: “The ERG had been working with the prime
minister and Number 10 and she admitted making mistakes earlier
in the negotiations. It was promising. She had shown a
willingness to listen to us.

“The ERG literally pulled letters from Graham Brady because they
thought she [May] was willing to work with us. But she has
completely turned back on her promise, and we are back to where
we were before.”

They added: “She [May] doesn’t come across as sneaky but she is
incredibly sneaky and backstabbing. She’s quite conniving. It’s
like the dying days of Thatcher where she wouldn’t listen to
anyone.”


Conservative party conferencePeter
Macdiarmid/Getty

Tory MPs set to join the People’s Vote campaign

Meanwhile, a senior source within the People’s Vote campaign has
told BI that “two or three” pro-EU Conservative MPs are set to be
officially unveiled as the group’s newest supporters later this
month.

The MPs — who are currently deliberating when to make their
announcements — will join their Tory colleagues Anna Soubry,
Sarah Wollaston, Justine Greening, Philip Lee and Guto Bepp, who
all support another Brexit referendum.

A junior minister told BI that they belong to a significant group
of Conservatives MPs who would support another referendum if the
UK risked leaving the EU without a deal in March next year.

“If the choice was between a referendum and no deal, I’d go for a
referendum,” they said, adding that Tory Remainers like Lee “are
right” to claim that numerous Tory MPs privately support another
nationwide vote.

Lee, who quit the government earlier this year to criticise May’s
handling of negotiations, told a Conservative conference
fringe last month
that three ministers privately back another
Brexit referendum.

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