Tory Brexiteers have reportedly said that they will back Theresa May’s controversial Withdrawal Agreement if she names a date for her departure and hands over the rest of the negotiating process to the next prime minister.
Mrs May is set to meet with the backbench 1922 Committee today, and one backbencher told to The Guardian that he would not be satisfied until the prime minister confirms when she will step down.
“She has got to say something,” the source said. “She can’t stand up there and just say the same thing about backing her deal.”
Downing Street has played down the significance of the meeting on Wednesday; however, it emerged on Tuesday that at the weekend’s impromptu Chequers meeting, Number 10 aides reportedly pressed key Brexiteers whether they would back the deal if Mrs May resigned.
According to a Tuesday Guardian report, a source said May’s aides had coordinated the questioning, saying, “It didn’t look like a coincidence; aides like this are not meant to think for themselves.”
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Those present at Chequers included Brexiteer chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) Jacob Rees-Mogg and vice chairman Steve Baker; the former Brexit secretaries Dominic Raab and David Davis; senior Leave campaigners Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, and Boris Johnson; and May allies Damian Green and David Lidington.
The media reports come as Mr Rees-Mogg wrote in the Daily Mail on Wednesday EVENING that he was open to backing the Withdrawal Agreement, writing he was “now willing to support it if the Democratic Unionist Party does.”
“I have come to this view because the numbers in Parliament make it clear that all the other potential outcomes are worse and an awkward reality needs to be faced,” Mr Rees-Mogg added.
To date, the DUP, which props up the Tory minority government, has maintained that they will not vote for the deal.
Speaking at The Telegraph’s Boris Live event, Mr Johnson said, “I am not there yet.”
“If we vote it down again, for the third time, there is now I think an appreciable risk that we will not leave at all.
“If people like me are to support this deal… then we need to see the proof that the second phase of negotiations will be different from the first,” he added.
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The Telegraph reports that up to 11 members of the ERG are set to back May’s deal, on the premise that the Withdrawal Agreement is “definitely not” worse than staying in the EU, with UKIP leader Gerard Batten condemning the Tory Brexiteers for their “treachery.”
“The ERG admits that Mrs May’s surrender document is a disaster, yet they chose to back a disaster over what they are told will be even worse. I suspect that the ‘worse consequences’ are the total implosion of the Tory Party at a European Parliament election,” Mr Batten said in a statement.
“The ERG members were supposed to be the true Brexiteers of the Tory Party, but when the time came to stand for the country, they chose to side with their beloved party. If you cut the Tories down the middle, it would read ‘treachery’ like a stick of rock,” he added.
MPs are set to make a series of ‘indicative’ (non-binding) votes tonight on Brexit alternatives, the votes going ahead after the Remainer-dominated Parliament backed taking control of Commons business from the government on Monday.