09/12/2018 23:44 GMT

Brexit Vote: Theresa May Faces Battle To Survive As Crunch Moment Looms

Former Cabinet ministers refuse to rule out leadership bids.

Theresa May is facing a battle to save both her political career and her Brexit deal ahead of Tuesday’s Commons showdown.

After five days of debating, MPs will on Tuesday vote on the ‘divorce’ deal struck between May and Brussels, with expectations that she is seriously struggling to get enough support.

With Tory hardliners angry at the prospect of the UK being tied too closely to the EU, and Labour refusing to support the terms of her deal, the chances of it being approved with the simple majority of 320 of the 639 MPs eligible to vote is highly unlikely.

Against that backdrop, a number of ex-Cabinet ministers - including Boris Johnson - refused to rule out leadership bids over the weekend.

The scale of the loss will determine what happens next, with options seemingly including a return to Brussels to push for better terms. On Sunday night, May spoke to EU leaders, including European Council president Donald Tusk and Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

MORE: Brexit Vote Explained: Here’s What Happens If May Loses

In her final attempt to win over Tory rebels, May warned on Sunday that they risk handing Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Number 10 unless they back her Brexit deal.

Speculation is mounting that May might be forced to delay the vote in a last-ditch effort to avoid defeat, as the Sunday Times reported it would give May time to “handbag” the EU into a better deal and convince Tory MPs to lend her their support.

But Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay insisted on the Andrew Marr Show hours later that the vote would still go ahead on Tuesday as planned because “it’s a good deal and it’s the only deal”.

The Independent

A weekend of political jostling ahead of the crunch vote added to the potential chaos of the next week, with many observers not ruling either a Tory leadership contest or a Labour-led minority government in the coming weeks and months.

Johnson pointedly refused to rule out challenging May, although he insisted it was “nonsense” to suggest he was already lining up members of his Cabinet.

He set out his plan for the Brexit deal, calling for half of the £39 billion divorce payment to be withheld from the EU until after a free trade deal is agreed and slamming the contentious ‘backstop’ - an indefinite customs union with the EU if a trade deal fails - as a “legal lobster pot”.

Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said she would give the prospect of standing as leader “serious concern” and suggested that Brexiteers should unite around a single candidate.

Ex-Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said “I’ve always said I wouldn’t rule it out” but “it would be very self-indulgent to be engaging in all that speculation when we’ve got such a big issue up for decision on Tuesday”.

Meanwhile, Labour said it would work with other Opposition parties to decide what to do if May crashes to defeat and could form a minority government.

Labour’s official policy is to call for a general election and, if that does not happen, to then keep all options open, including the possibility of a second referendum.

But it too appeared to be struggling to hold the line, with shadow sports minister Rosena Allin-Khan taking part in a rally calling for a second referendum. She said it was “time to take the Brexit decision back to the people”.