- UK Prime Minister Theresa May is under intense pressure from her colleagues to set out her resignation date.
- The prime minister could tell Tory MPs on Wednesday afternoon that she will stand down if they back her Brexit deal.
- Brexiteers and many Remainers say a different prime minister should lead the next phase of negotiations.
- Andrea Leadsom, a Cabinet minister, refused to say whether she’d back the prime minister staying on if Parliament passes her deal this week.
LONDON – Prime Minister Theresa May is under intense pressure to set out her resignation date on Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to persuade eurosceptic colleagues to back her Brexit deal.
The prime minister is set to address a meeting of Conservative MPs as Parliament prepares to vote on Wednesday on possible alternatives to her Brexit deal, with many backbenchers expecting that May could announce a plan for her departure.
She has already said she will not lead the party into the next general election but has resisted repeated requests to spell out when she will leave Downing Street.
Several Brexiteers who oppose May’s deal, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, have indicated this week that they are now likely to back the prime minister’s deal, but others, including Boris Johnson, have indicated they would be more likely to do so if she set a date for her departure.
Johnson, the former foreign secretary, said at a Telegraph event on Tuesday that he needed “to see that the second phase of the negotiations will be different from the first,” which was widely interpreted as a signal to the prime minister to set out her resignation date.
Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, also refused to say whether she’d back the prime minister staying on if she secures her deal.
“I am fully supporting the prime minister to get us out of the European Union,” the cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme, adding that whether she stayed after was “a matter for her.”
Two of Britain’s most-read newspapers, the Times and The Sun, have also in the past week called on May to stand down.
May invited key opponents of her deal, including Johnson, Rees-Mogg, and Iain Duncan Smith, to her Chequers country retreat over the weekend. According to reports, the prime minister was told that the way to get her deal through was to tell colleagues when she planned to resign.
Many MPs are now openly calling for the prime minister to quit if her deal goes through. George Freeman, May’s former policy adviser, tweeted on Sunday: “I’m afraid it’s all over for the PM. She’s done her best. But across the country you can see the anger. Everyone feels betrayed. Government’s gridlocked. Trust in democracy collapsing. This cant go on. We need a new PM.”
The prime minister shelved plans for a third vote on her Brexit deal on Tuesday but could bring it back to Parliament on Friday. The government is in intensive talks with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to back her deal, which could bring significant numbers of Tory MPs on board.
So far, nine Tory MPs who voted against the deal in January have said they will now back it, meaning May still needs 66 votes to command a majority.
MPs are set to hold a series of indicative votes on Wednesday after three ministers resigned to back an amendment wresting control of the parliamentary timetable from the government.
The options voted on are likely to include the prime minister’s deal, a customs union with the EU, a customs union and single-market membership, a Canada-style free-trade agreement, the revocation of Article 50, a second referendum, and a no-deal Brexit.
There is no guarantee of a majority for any of those outcomes, and even MPs backing the votes say it could take several goes before there is a majority for one type of withdrawal plan.
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