Brexit: Theresa May faces showdown with Conservative rebels in critical week for her leadership

Boris Johnson and David Davis are considering Brexit speeches in the commons after resigning last week.

Theresa May is set for a showdown with emboldened Brexit rebels who are warning that time is running out for her to ditch her proposals for future relations with the European Union - writes independent.co.uk

Brexiteers attempting to trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister pointed to opinion polls showing a surge in support for Ukip at the Conservatives’ expense, since she published her plans.

As rebels demanded an immediate change, both David Davis – who on Sunday accused the prime minister of “astonishing dishonesty” over Brexit – and Boris Johnson were considering major interventions that could destabilise Ms May.

The threat of further resignations also loomed, with a junior member of the government quitting on Sunday and Brexiteers indicating more would follow over the PM’s plans set out in her white paper.

Among those demanding a harder Brexit direction wasformer minister Steve Baker , who followed Mr Davis in quitting from the Department for Exiting the European Union last week.

He argued that an opinion poll showing the Tories four points behind Labour, and Ukip surging by five points to eight per cent since the white paper was published, proved public dissatisfaction with the PM’s plans.

Warning that the split in the Tory vote risked Jeremy Corbyn getting into power, he said on Twitter: “It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s still time to change course. Just.”

Rebels argue that they now have enough letters from MPs to trigger the internal party process that would lead to a vote of no confidence in Ms May.

But even if they do have the 48 letters needed, it is not clear they would have the numbers to win the vote, with a failure to do so leaving Ms May immune to further challenges for a year under party rules.

Mr Baker was publicly backed by Nadine Dorries , MP forMid Bedfordshire, who also warned the party would lose the next election unless it ditched Ms May’s plans.

She said: “In ‘97 the Conservative party was decimated, thanks to the management of Europhiles like Ken Clarke and his band of post Maastricht acolytes.

“They’re at it again. It’s a firmer Brexit or Corbyn, and if Theresa May sticks to the Chequers deal, history will repeat itself.”

Her comments came as a Deltapoll survey also placed Labour on 42 per cent, five points ahead of the Tories, and indicated the Chequers plan is backed by just seven per cent of voters, while 62 per cent think Ms May should quit by the next election.

Brexit-backing John Redwood, MP for Wokingham,accused the civil service of having talked the prime minister “into a policy which doesn’t amount to leaving the EU”.

He added: “Those who relied on this bad advice have now placed themselves in a difficult position. They need to change their policy as soon as possible so we can conduct good and strong negotiations for the UK.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg , seen as a replacement for Ms May by the Tory right, accused her of being “a Remainer who has remained a Remainer”.

The member for North East Somerset, who leads the influential European Research Group of Conservative MPs, echoed claims from Mr Davis that she had produced her plans behind closed doors, cutting pro-Brexit ministers out of the process.

He said: “The government unfortunately believes that Brexit is not a good thing in itself. It seems to think it has to be tempered with non-Brexit.

“In my view and in the view of most Brexiteers, head and heart come together.

“Brexit is enormously positive, a huge opportunity for the country. I’m afraid the prime minister doesn’t see that.”

Mr Davis wrote a piece inTheSunday Timesattacking Ms May’ assertion that there is no alternative to her plans as “dishonesty”, and pointing out that he, Mr Baker and their officials had been working on a harder proposal.

While he has not called for Ms May to be replaced, sources toldThe Independentthe ex-minister was planning to make an intervention in the commons attacking the prime minister’s customs plans.

Mr Johnson, who resigned shortly after Mr Davis, is due to write his first column since quitting on Monday, thoughThe Independentunderstands he will steer clear of Brexit for the moment.

Friends say however that he is also considering making an intervention in the commons this week, but has not reached a final decision yet.

Rebels could put on a show of strength on Monday and Tuesday when the bills setting out Ms May’s plans on customs and trade are put to votes.

Robert Courts MP, who sits in David Cameron’s old Witney and West Oxfordshire seat, announced he would quit his junior government role on Sunday “to express discontent with [the Chequers plan] in votes” on Monday.

But Ms May was handed a life-line from Labour MP John Mann who said he “could see quite a lot of Labour MPs” backing Ms May’s plans in the commons, something that might help her overcome any Tory Brexiteer rebellion.

Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan also warned Ms May’s Conservative critics that they were “playing with fire”, and that opposing her could not only let Mr Corbyn into Downing Street, but see the entire Tory party “go down the plughole”.

Following an article and a live interview on Sunday morning in which she urged the country to keep its “eye on the prize” of Brexit, the prime minister will continue a defence of her policies with a speech on Monday.

She will say: “Our proposal sets out the right deal for the UK – honouring the democratic decision of the British people, protecting the integrity of our precious union, supporting growth, maintaining security and safeguarding British jobs.

“We will take back control of our borders, our laws and our money. But we will do so in a way that is good for business and good for our future prosperity.”

She is expected to set out how her proposals will protect the supply chains of companies like Bombardier, Rolls Royce and Airbus, as well as announcing £343m of investment for research and development in the aerospace industry.

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