Theresa May agrees to discuss future with Tory backbenchers
No exit for prime minister until EU departure deal agreed by parliament, says Downing Street
Theresa May at the dispatch box on Wednesday, May 8th: ‘We are working on an agreement that can command a majority of this House.’ Photograph: UK Parliament/Roger Harris/via Reuters
British prime minister Theresa May has agreed to meet Conservative backbenchers next week to discuss her future amid pressure for her to set out a definite timetable for departure. But Downing Street made clear that the prime minister had no intention of resigning before her Brexit deal is approved by parliament.
“She made a very generous and bold offer to the 1922 committee a few weeks ago that she would see through phase one of the Brexit process and she would leave and open it up for new leadership for phase two and that is the timetable she’s working towards. She wants to get Brexit done. She has been clear that she will stay to the completion of phase one,” said a spokesman.
In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Conservative backbencher Andrea Jenkyns called on Mrs May to leave immediately.
“She’s tried her best, nobody could fault or doubt her commitment and sense of duty, but she has failed. The public no longer trust her to run Brexit negotiations. Isn’t it time to step aside and let someone else lead our country, our party and the Brexit negotiations?” said Ms Jenkyns.
The prime minister said that Brexit was not about her but that if all MPs had voted the way she did, Britain would have left the EU by now.
Chairman of the 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady said backbenchers would have a chance to discuss the issue with Mrs May next week. He added that he expected her to introduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill soon.
“It’s my understanding it’s the government’s intention to bring a second reading of the Bill forward in the near future, certainly the intention is before the European election takes place. Personally I hope the Bill will be brought forward in a form which contains elements of the political declaration brought forward that would obviate the need ever for the Irish backstop to apply,” he said.
Any progress in Labour-Tory talks?
Talks between the government and Labour continued on Wednesday night and during prime minister’s questions Mrs May defended her decision to enter negotiations with Jeremy Corbyn in an effort to find a common approach to Brexit.
“We are indeed talking with the Labour Party. The public gave this House a very clear message last week – that they want us to get on and deliver Brexit. It is absolutely right that we do so and we are working on an agreement that can command a majority of this House,” she said.
Labour said it would persist with the talks, but warned that the government would have to show a willingness to compromise within days if they were to succeed.
“These talks are not an indefinite process. We are looking to nail down in the next few days whether and how the government is prepared to move from its failed deal,” said a spokesman.
If the government fails to agree a common Brexit proposal with Labour, its Plan B is to put a number of options to MPs in indicative votes.