The PM (pictured in Brussels today) has been warned that her ‘small cabal’ in Downing Street must heed the views of the party rank-and-file or risk disaster
The Prime Minister has been warned that her ‘small cabal’ in Downing Street must heed the views of the party rank-and-file or risk disaster.
The latest onslaught came as Mrs May struggles to quell a major revolt over the government’s White Paper proposals for future trade with the EU.
The document will formally lay out the plans the premier forced through Cabinet at Chequers last week – which triggered dramatic resignations from Boris Johnson and David Davis.
As Brexiteers stepped up their rhetoric today, Maria Caulfield, who has quit as a Tory vice chair, branded the proposals ‘catastrophically bad’ and a ‘disaster’.
She said a ‘small cabal’ in Downing Street were showing ‘contempt’ for the opinions of MPs.
Writing in The Sun, Mrs May pleaded with rebels to back down, saying her plan was the only one which ‘truly respects the will of the British people’.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the much-anticipated White Paper would not leave the UK as a ‘rule taker’ and respects the referendum result while backing business.
He is taking the document to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier later as the government makes an all-out bid to break the deadlock in negotiations.
But it is far from clear that the plans will get a good reception in Brussels, after Mr Barnier warned they must be ‘workable’ and urged business leaders to prepare for a no deal scenario.
Eurosceptics are plotting to inflict a series of Commons defeats on Theresa May next week as they step up their ‘guerilla war’.
They have tabled four amendments to the PM’s flagship Trade Bill that would stop her enacting the plan agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers.
The revolt could wipe out Mrs May’s majority when the legislation returns to the Commons on Monday, in the first significant test of strength of her Brexit critics.
The Prime Minister faces a war on two fronts as Remain-supporting Tories led by Dominic Grieve are also planning their own amendments to keep Britain tied closely to the EU.
As Brexiteers stepped up their rhetoric today, Maria Caulfield, who has quit as a Tory vice chair, branded the proposals ‘catastrophically bad’ and a ‘disaster’. But new Brexit Secretray Dominic Raab (right) denied they would leave the UK as a ‘rule taker’
Eurosceptics have tabled four amendments to the PM’s flagship trade bill that would stop her enacting the plan agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers
Jeremy Hunt, who has replaced Mr Johnson as Foreign Secretary, tried to play down the tensions. He is pictured at the NATO summit in Brussels yesterday
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers, last night said the Chequers plan had led to a ‘breakdown in trust’.
He warned that Mrs May must now perform a U-turn or rely on Labour votes to get her legislation through Parliament.
Mr Rees-Mogg said the amendments would ‘help rescue us from the failure of Chequers’, adding: ‘We are hoping to help the Government stick to its previous commitments.’
How could Theresa May be ousted as Tory leader?
Theresa May faces a mortal threat to her leadership of the Conservative Party and Government.
A Tory leadership contest can be called in one of two ways – if Mrs May resigns or if MPs force and win a vote of no confidence in her.
Calling votes of no confidence is the responsibility of the chairman of the 1922 Committee, which includes all backbench Tory MPs.
Chairman Graham Brady is obliged to call a vote if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to him calling for one – currently 48 MPs.
The process is secret and only Mr Brady knows how many letters he has received.
The procedure was last used in 2003 when Iain Duncan Smith was ousted as Tory leader.
If Mrs May is ousted, any MP is eligible to stand.
Conservative MPs will then hold a series of ballots to whittle the list of contenders down to two, with the last place candidate dropping out in each round.
The final two candidates are then offered to the Tory membership at large for an election.
A source added that a series of defeats would act as a warning shot to Mrs May by Brexiteers over her Chequers blueprint.
He said: ‘The Government has a very small majority, and there are quite a lot of people who want a proper Brexit. The Government forgot that at Chequers.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Ms Caulfield said: ‘Instead of exploring this perfectly acceptable solution a small cabal in Downing Street has dreamt up a fiendishly complex arrangement that seeks to recreate large parts of the EU’s single market. This approach comes with serious costs.
‘Far from threatening the PM the way a handful of colleagues selfishly have ever since the country voted to leave the EU, I have loyally supported her in difficult times.
‘While I did not expect my loyalty to be rewarded, nor did I expect it to be treated with contempt.’
Jeremy Hunt, who has replaced Mr Johnson as Foreign Secretary, tried to play down the tensions.
‘You’re going to have very, very lively debates in a situation like this. This is one of the biggest decisions that we have taken as a country in our political lifetimes so there’s going to be a pretty fierce discussion but the prime minister has found a way forward,’ he told reporters at a NATO summit in Brussels.
He also laid down a warning to the EU, insisting: ‘We’re not the only ones who can’t do the cherry-picking. If they want a deep and special partnership with Britain going forward, then we have to look at our relationship as a whole.’
Mr Raab said the Chequers showdown had produced a ‘credible’ proposal. ‘It’s bold, it’s ambitious but it’s also pragmatic,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘The Prime Minister is in charge of the negotiations. I will be deputising for her and I plan to speak to Michel Barnier later today.’
Mr Raab said he hoped the White Paper being published by the Government would ‘reassure all of those with concerns about this’.
‘For those that are either criticising or carping or whatever else, they need to come back with credible alternatives,’ he said.
Mr Raab said it was ‘true’ that the UK would no longer be part of setting the directives in the common rulebook it would agree to under the proposals.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier (pictured in New York this week) warned the Brexit plans must be ‘workable’ and urged business leaders to prepare for a no deal scenario
But he said Britain would ‘have a chance to influence it’ and there would be a parliamentary lock on new measures.
‘It’s not right to say we will be a rule-taker in the sense that’s normally used,’ he added.
Ahead of the release of the white paper, Mr Barnier told the US chamber of commerce: ‘We will look carefully at each and any proposal of UK, but these proposals must be workable.’
However, Mr Barnier said: ‘Only the combination of the single market and the customs union makes frictionless trade possible.
‘Outside of the customs union there need to be procedures and customs controls.
‘And outside of the single market you necessarily have controls to check compliance with European standards.
‘As a consequence there will be no business as usual because of the Brexit.
‘And we should all get ready for all scenarios, including a no-deal scenario.’