Theresa May’s ministers plot a soft Brexit ahead of expected Commons defeat on no-deal

  • Tory MPs who backed Theresa May’s Brexit deal when it was defeated could abandon support and push for a softer EU exit if MPs vote to delay a no-deal Brexit tomorrow, reports said.
  • Downing Street is desperate to prevent the Cooper amendment – which could force the prime minister to seek a delay to Brexit – from passing in the Commons on Tuesday.
  • Theresa May reportedly told Cabinet ministers that she would not take Britain out of the EU without a deal, but believes she could use the threat of a no-deal exit to force concessions from Brussels.

LONDON – Tory MPs who backed Theresa May’s Brexit plan when it was defeated this month are reportedly planning to abandon their support and try and force through a softer deal if parliament votes to delay a no-deal EU exit tomorrow.

MPs who are loyal to the prime minister will back alternative plans for a softer Brexit if an amendment tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper wins a majority in the Commons on Monday, the Times reported.

The backbenchers believe that removing the immediate threat of a no-deal exit will weaken the prime minister’s authority to try and seek concessions on the Irish backstop in Brussels and allow them to mobilise behind a plan that commands the support of MPs from across the Commons.

The Cooper plan even reportedly commands the support of several Remain-supporting Cabinet ministers.

Work & Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd calling on the prime minister to have a free vote on Tuesday’s amendments.Rudd told Newsnight on Sunday: “At the moment there is a lot of change going on. I have called for a free vote for the amendments on Tuesday, and we’ll see what position the government takes.”

She also refused to rule out the prospect of resigning in order to vote against the Cooper amendment.

Downing Street is desperate to prevent Cooper’s amendment passing. In theory, it could allow a bill tabled by backbench MPs through parliament which forces the prime minister to seek an extension to Article 50, although senior MPs backing the plan have private doubts that it is workable, and are looking at other amendments that might be more successful.

While the prime minister has reportedly told Cabinet ministers that she will refuse to take Britain out of the EU with no deal, Downing Street fears that publicly removing the threat of no-deal would kill any chance of securing major concessions to the backstop, as Brussels would calculate that the Commons would move to push through a softer form of exit.

But the amendment appears likely to have support from the majority of MPs, with the Labour frontbench set to back the amendment if it is selected by House of Commons speaker John Bercow tomorrow.