May fights on in face of Eurosceptic coup to topple her over draft Brexit deal

Prime minister gets boost after pro-Brexit minister Michael Gove decided not to resign, and trade secretary Liam Fox backed her

Some 23 Conservative MPs have publicly said they submitted letters of no confidence in Mrs May. This is still short of the required 48 to trigger a no-confidence vote, although leading pro-Brexit campaigner Steve Baker said the party was “pretty close” to reaching that number

Some 23 Conservative MPs have publicly said they submitted letters of no confidence in Mrs May. This is still short of the required 48 to trigger a no-confidence vote, although leading pro-Brexit campaigner Steve Baker said the party was “pretty close” to reaching that number

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UK prime minister Theresa May will be fighting for her political survival in the coming days as she faces a Eurosceptic coup to topple her over the draft Brexit deal.

A vote of no confidence in her leadership could be triggered as early as Monday as more Conservative backbenchers opposed to her divorce deal with the EU called for a ballot on her leadership. However, she has vowed to battle on and see the deal through.

Some 23 Conservative MPs have publicly said they submitted letters of no confidence in her. This is still short of the required 48 to trigger a no-confidence vote, although leading pro-Brexit MP Steve Baker said the party was “pretty close” to reaching that number.

Boost

Mrs May received a boost after one pro-Brexit minister, Michael Gove, decided not to resign, and another, trade secretary Liam Fox, also backed her, though there were reports that pro-Brexit ministers planned to meet over the weekend to discuss whether the deal could be reopened.

In a rearguard action, Mrs May has moved to subdue pro-Brexit rebels by directing party whips to run a campaign of support over the weekend, and by personally appealing to local Conservative leaders to back her.

As the political crisis in London raises the spectre of a no-deal Brexit, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned that in the event of this week’s agreement collapsing it would be “very difficult to avoid a hard border”.

But Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney insisted the Government would not make any preparations for the return of a hard border should the UK crash out of the EU next year.

If the deal was not followed through by the British, he said, “then it would be difficult to put an alternative to that which prevents a hard border, but we will do that if necessary”. Mr Coveney told reporters at the Fine Gael Ardfheis in Dublin the proposed Brexit deal gave the North “the best of both worlds”.

Tensions over the agreement have increased in Northern Ireland, where the DUP and its leader Arlene Foster have expressed considerable irritation that business leaders have supported the draft deal.

Ms Foster, whose party has threatened to withdraw its critical support from Mrs May’s minority government over the divorce deal, has privately warned that business people were in danger of being exploited for political reasons.

Business people from sectors ranging from farming to industry have argued that the proposed deal was “better than no deal”. Ms Foster was particularly annoyed that Northern Secretary Karen Bradley briefed the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the deal.

It has also emerged that EU citizens regarded as suspect or unwelcome in Britain may be prevented from travelling to Ireland after Brexit to ensure they cannot travel on to the UK unnoticed.

The move, which is being actively developed by the Irish and British governments, would mean some EU citizens would not enjoy full freedom of movement within the EU.

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