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‘In the National Interest, May Must Go,’ Tory Brexiteers, Remainers Fracture on No Confidence Vote

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 12: Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street on her way to Prime Minister's Questions, after it was announced that she will face a vote of no confidence, to take place tonight, on December 12, 2018 in London, England. Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of …
Leon Neal/Getty
VICTORIA FRIEDMAN

Conservative Party MPs have stated their intended position on the vote of no confidence in Theresa May as party leader on Wednesday night — but not all intend to vote as expected along Leaver/Remain lines.

Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady confirmed Wednesday morning that a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May by party members would be held tonight, with results coming in at 9pm.

Mrs May announced she would “contest that vote with everything I’ve got,” and after Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons at noon is expected to meet with the Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG) afterwards in an effort to win support.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker

The ERG’s chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg and deputy chairman Steve Baker issued a joint statement saying, “Theresa May’s plan would bring down the government if carried forward. But our Party will rightly not tolerate it.

“Conservatives must now answer whether they wish to draw ever closer to an election under Mrs May’s leadership. In the national interest, she must go.”

Owen Paterson

Fellow seasoned Brexiteer Owen Paterson, who was said to have sparked this vote, shared his letter of no confidence in The Telegraph Tuesday night, writing that “the Prime Minister’s proposed ‘deal’ is so bad that it cannot be considered anything other than a betrayal of clear manifesto promises.”

He said later, “I just couldn’t believe we’re still talking about the [Irish] backstop which is toxic and totally unacceptable to the [Democratic Unionist Party]” which has a confidence and supply agreement with the Tory government, and would certainly have voted down the deal.

May-supporting Brexiteers

However, some fellow Brexiteers have come out and publicly backed Mrs May, with Reuters reporting former Vote Leave chairman and environment secretary Michael Gove as saying, “I am backing the Prime Minister 100 percent — and I urge every Conservative MP to do the same. She is battling hard for our country and no one is better placed to ensure we deliver on the British people’s decision to leave the EU.”

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt also said, “The Prime Minister has my full support, not least because she has always done what she firmly believes is in the national interest. Our country needs us all to fight for a good deal and prepare for a no deal scenario. All eyes and hands should be on that task.”

Remainers

Remain supporting, long-time May ally, and Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd said, “The PM has my full support. At this critical time we need to support and work with the PM to deliver on leaving the EU, & our domestic agenda — ambitious for improvements to people’s lives & to build on growth of wages & jobs.”

Staunch Europhile and Remain supporter Anna Soubry called it a “disgraceful move” and that “Removing Theresa May at this most critical of times is grossly irresponsible.”

However, her motives are derived from her desire to stop Brexit. Ms Soubry told Sky News that Mrs May should hold the House of Commons vote on the withdrawal agreement, which was cancelled Monday, and if the government loses, says the prime minister should call for a second referendum.

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said that he was “‘backing Theresa May tonight. Being PM is the most difficult job imaginable right now and the last thing the country needs is a damaging and long leadership contest.

“Brexit was never going to be easy but she is the best person to make sure we actually leave the EU on March 29.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid added: “The last thing our country needs right now is a Conservative Party leadership election. Will be seen as self-indulgent and wrong. PM has my full support and is best person to ensure we leave EU on 29 March.”

Chairman of the Conservative Party

Chairman of the Conservative Party Brandon Lewis called on fellow MPs to support the prime minister, telling media that “the prime minister is the right one to take us forward. We need to give her our full support so she can get back to delivering for the country, get out to Europe, and bang the table for the UK… I would urge all colleagues to get behind her, give her their full support. It’s the right thing for the country.”

Mrs May say Wednesday morning that removing her as party leader could result in “extending or rescinding Article 50 — delaying, or even stopping Brexit when people want us to get on with it.”

Brexiteer MP Crispin Blunt rejected that statement, saying, “Brexit does not have to be delayed. It is in law that we leave on the 29th of March.”

Adding, “there will be no agreement on this deal in the House of Commons. The EU have made it crystal clear they aren’t changing so that is the position under the law, and the government will have no business changing the law between now and the 29th of March.”

Some MPs have already signalled their interest in party leadership candidacy, notably Mr Javid and Boris Johnson.

Bookmakers have Mr Johnson on 5/1 odds of replacing Mrs May if she loses tonight’s vote, with Javid on 7/1, Michael Gove on 8/1, and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab on 6/1, according to The Telegraph.

If May wins tonight’s vote, she will be safe from further leadership challenges for 12 months.

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