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Theresa May on brink of no-confidence vote over her Brexit deal

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theresa may leadership challenge
Theresa
May

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  • Conservative rebels are closing in on a leadership
    challenge against Theresa May.
  • Reports suggest party officials have almost reached the
    48-letter threshold required for a vote of no confidence in the
    prime minister.
  • Those mounting the challenge tell Business Insider they
    are confident the threshold will be breached within
    days.
  • However, the failure to reach the threshold so far has
    led some Conservative MPs to believe the challenge could fizzle
    out.

LONDON — Theresa May could face a leadership challenge within the
next 24 hours as reports suggest that rebel Conservative MPs are
just a handful of letters away from triggering a vote of no
confidence in her.

May returns to Westminster on Monday with one report suggesting
that party authorities have received 42 of the 48 required
letters of no confidence in her leadership.

The European Research Group of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs, who
are leading the challenge against May, believed the figure had
already reached 48 letters on Friday.

Steve Baker, a leading member of the group, told colleagues in a
Whatsapp group: “My count is over 48 with about a dozen probables
on top.” However, Baker later rowed back on that prediction, and
this morning The Sun reports that the
number is 42, meaning six Conservative MPs need to submit letters
to trigger a no-confidence motion.

“If everyone does what they’ve told me, the line will be crossed
by a big margin on Monday evening,” Baker said.

“However, it has become very very clear that not everyone does
what they’ve said they’re going to do. Conservative members of
parliament who have decided that the only way to change the
policy is to change the leader must have the courage and
integrity to write the letter themselves. Simply telling me
they’re going to obviously isn’t good enough.”

One source in the ERG told Business Insider on Friday that they
were “smirkingly confident” that they would reach the required 48
figure withing day but added that they were in “no rush” to reach
it.

They said the key moment of danger would come on Monday evening
when May faces a possible Commons defeat on the government’s
Finance Bill.

A cross-party amendment attempting to force the government to
publish their economic assesment of the impact of a no-deal
Brexit has been signed by over 70 MPs, including 11
Conservatives. If the DUP were to join the rebellion it could
trigger a decisive blow against the prime minister and trigger a
final wave of letters, the rebels believe.

However, the ERG is not unanimous in wanting a challenge. Baker,
group leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, and numerous other members have
publicly revealed their no-confidence letters. However, other
members have told Business Insider that they are reluctant to
challenge May at such a crucial point in the Brexit process.

“I have not submitted a letter and am very unlikely to do so
before March 30th, 2019,” one told BI.

Conservative MPs who dislike May’s Brexit deal returned to their
constituencies over the weekend to deliberate over whether to
submit letters. If 48 letters are not reached today, the
chances of a no-confidence vote could diminish.

“The fact that there hasn’t been an announcement of 48 letters in
already is very telling,” one Conservative MP told BI.


Theresa MayWPA
Pool/Getty Images

The prime minister will spend this week selling her Brexit deal
to MPs, businesses and members of the public.

This morning she will address the Confederation of British
Industry’s annual conference, where she is expected to say that
her deal “fulfils the wishes of the British people as expressed
in the 2016 referendum.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director-general, declared support
for May’s deal on Sunday, telling Sky that while it “was not
perfect” it provided stability to businesses and represented a
path to a future free trade deal.

In Westminster, pro-Brexit Cabinet members want to alter May’s
Brexit deal. Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Penny Mordant, Liam
Fox and Chris Grayling want the political declaration on the
future relationship to include sufficient detail on the future
trade deal and how the conditions in which the UK can leave the
controversial backstop.

“There are things, particularly in the political decleration,
which could give certainty to how we leave the backstop… Things
like that are worth staying on for,” an ally of Leadsom told BI.

The aforementioned Cabinet ministers have played down reports of a
secret plot to change the Brexit deal. Fox has defended May in
an opinion piece for The
Telegraph.
Last week the pro-Brexit trade secretary warned
rebel Conservatives: “We aren’t elected to do what we want. We
are elected to do what’s in the national interest.”

The decision of the five ministers to stay in Cabinet rather than
resign like Dominic Raab and Esther McVey did on Thursday was a
boost for the prime minister. However, an ally of Leadsom did not
rule out the former Conservative leadership candidate quitting at
a later date.

Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain’s departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider’s political reporters. Join here.

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