Theresa May should hold a Commons vote on her Brexit plans as early as this week in order to avoid Tory civil war, former Cabinet minister David Davis has urged.
The former Brexit Secretary told HuffPost UK that if MPs were to reject the Prime Minister’s plans, she would then have more time to press Brussels into agreeing a better exit plan for Britain.
Amid continuing speculation that May is close to facing a vote of no confidence in her leadership, Davis suggested that she could avoid being toppled if she acted swiftly to put her proposals before Parliament.
Some Government sources have suggested that the “meaningful vote” on the deal may not happen until the second week of December, weeks after the EU holds its summit this coming Sunday.
But Davis said that the House of Commons had such a light legislative load that it could easily hold the crunch vote as early as this Thursday, before May went to Brussels.
“The reason the party is in disarray is because a large part of it doesn’t like this deal and fears that it would be faced with a take-it-or-leave it in late December,” he said. “That’s what’s driving a lot of people, that we are going to run out of time.
“The proper way to resolve the issue is to put the deal to the Commons as soon as possible, ideally this week. There’s very little on the agenda in the Commons this Thursday, for example.
“There’s no need to wait for the EU council because this [deal] was approved by the Commission. If Parliament decides to reject it, then the Commission has got to deal with the fact that it is unacceptable to Parliament.
“It might choose to walk away and say in that case there’s no deal, I think it’s highly unlikely, but it puts the ball in their court.”
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said he was “not aware of any plans” to schedule a vote on the deal this week.
Many Tory and Labour MPs believe that May will have no choice but to hold a second Commons vote with different plans, should she be defeated the first time.
Davis added that he had not joined colleagues in writing a letter demanding a vote of confidence in the PM.
A minimum of 48 MPs need to write to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, to trigger the move.
“If I were to write a letter, the first person to know about it would be the Prime Minister, as a matter of honour or integrity,” Davis told HuffPost.
Earlier on Monday Tory backbench MP Anne Marie Morris, told BBC1’s Breakfast there was “no question” the threshold of 48 letters would be reached this week.
Fellow Brexiteer Simon Clarke told Radio 4’s Today programme time was of the essence. “This day must be the day at which action is taken. We now have a deal on the table, it’s gone from theory to reality, and our worst fears have been realised.
“Every hour, every day, that we delay the moment of reckoning on this, every day that elapses without having rejected this deal is one day less to embark either on credible negotiations to try and remove the backstop that is the issue at the heart of these negotiations, or failing that prepare with an intensity that we simply have not seen for a no-deal scenario.”
Theresa May won the backing of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) today as she addressed the lobby group’s annual conference.
But in a separate interview for Bloomberg TV, Davis said that smaller firms were not as keen as the CBI on the deal and in fact didn’t need “certainty” or “stability”.
“Big business wants stability, no doubt about that. The new businesses don’t. If you had here James Dyson one of our great innovators, he wouldn’t say he wants certainty, he would say he wants opportunity.
“Capital doesn’t pursue certainty, capital pursues opportunity. The danger of this proposal is it would shut down future opportunities.
“The CBI is just one arm of industry. The businesses that should worry about what’s been put in place are those with innovation. We are going to get control by regulation.”