HARDLINE Tory Brexiteers have threatened Theresa May they will go on strike if she carries out her vow to delay Brexit by a year.
No10 on Monday set a deadline of late on Tuesday for MPs to agree the PM’s exit deal before Thursday’s European summit.
But instead of buckling to the pressure, diehard Tory MP Leavers raised the stakes back on the PM with a pledge to withdraw their cooperation.
As many as 20 members of the hardline European Research Group have told whips they will carry out “vote strikes” – a move that would push Mrs May’s minority government to the verge of collapse.
On another dramatic day in Westminster:
- Fears among Tory Brexiteers began to rise that the PM is preparing to put her Brexit deal to a second In/Out referendum rather than go ahead with a long delay,
- Mrs May was given a boost when ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg signalled he was ready to switch his vote to support her deal,
- Boris Johnson was accused by his own allies of torpedoing his fading hopes of taking the Tory leadership after he vowed to block Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
As Conservative tensions over Brexit reached boiling point around the PM’s ultimatum strategy, one senior Tory backbencher told The Sun: “If she tried to go ahead with a long extension, there will be vote strikes on all Government legislation.
“She will lose us, and lose us permanently if she goes ahead with this, and that has been made crystal clear to her.”
Staring down Mrs May in the ultra-high stakes game of bluff, ERG member Lee Rowley added: “The Prime Minister is going to have to reflect very carefully over the next few days.
“I don’t think she wants to be a PM who has failed to get a deal through, and then has to enforce a two-year extension.
“That won’t look very good.”
A Brexiteer former Cabinet minister added: “The party would simply not stand for a long delay to Brexit. It would finish her”.
Boris Johnson faced a bitter backlash from supporters on Monday by declaring he will vote down the PM’s divorce agreement unless the EU agrees to more changes.
One ally minister branded the former Foreign Secretary “deluded”.
While winning favour with the Eurosceptic party membership, his continuing defiance will further alienate Tory MPs who pick the final two candidates for a nationwide party vote, the ally warned, adding: “He is crap at politics. He will end up outside the two”.
Another Tory Brexiteer MP said: “Boris seems to be forgetting that many of our members are councillors, and they face a wipe out on May 2 if we’re still in the EU for years.
“That will not engender him to them.”
A WhatsApp group for Tory Brexiteers was rife on Monday with speculation that the PM will next week accept a bid by Labour MP Peter Kyle to hold a second referendum on her deal as a way out of her galling dilemma.
Maria Caulfield warned on it: “Moderates are being tempted by Kyle et al as they don’t believe ERG will ever accept anything but WTO”.
ERG chair Jacob Rees-Mogg went public with his jitters over continuing to vote down Mrs May’s deal on Monday.
The Tory MP for Somerset North said: “No deal is better than a bad deal, but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union, in the hierarchy of worst options.
“The debate is really, is No Deal still realistic?”
Mrs May told at least one MP that her controversial chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins will “go as soon as the deal is through” in a bid to curry favour – but civil service pals insisted he wanted to move on anyway.
Putting a brave face on the mess, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there were “cautious signs for encouragement”.
One hardline Brexiteer said he’d told the Prime Minister on the phone that there was no chance of him backing her deal this week.
He said: “I think she rang me as a last ditch effort. I told Stephen Parkinson I won’t budge on it when he arranged the phone call yesterday. I think she rang me as a last ditch effort. I’m not going to change my mind and I reiterated that in conversation – and told her a lot of other people are going to do that. She accepted my position and signaled she will pull the vote for this week.
“Her best bet is to cancel the vote this week, tell the EU the Commons won’t wear it and tell they they’ll need to come back with something on the backstop. If she does then great, if not then she comes back and says she’s tried her best.
“Extension is better than signing up to this Withdrawal Agreement – we’ll still be in the EU with full voting rights and we can make life extremely difficult for them and use that as leverage.”
Originally reported here