Theresa May has been warned that her job will be on the line if she postpones Tuesday’s meaningful vote on her Brexit deal to avoid another crushing defeat.
The prime minister was warned by Tory ex-minister Nick Boles she would “forfeit the confidence of the Commons”, while his Labour Brexit ally Yvette Cooper said May would be peddling a “straight up lie” if she pulls the vote.
The PM’s official spokesman insisted the meaningful vote would go ahead and that May’s promise to hold subsequent votes on whether to proceed with a no-deal Brexit or delay Article 50 if MPs do not back her deal still stand.
But amid speculation the PM could offer an ‘aspirational’ vote on the concessions she wants from the EU rather than a straightforward yes/no vote on the deal, the spokesman was unable to say exactly what MPs would be considering on Tuesday.
The government must table its meaningful vote motion before the close of the main Commons business at 10pm, andMay last night made a dramatic dash to Strasbourg to seek concessions from Brussels chief Jean-Claude Juncker to help win over her party.
She returned from the UK just hours later with fresh ‘guarantees’ aimed at wooing hardline Tory Eurosceptics.
Speaking at a press conference at midnight Strasbourg time, May admitted her previous deal “was not strong enough”.
“Today we have secured legal changes. Now is the time to come together to back this improved Brexit deal and deliver on the instruction of the British people,” she said.
Boles warned May her position would be in jeopardy if she dodged the Commons showdown.
He highlighted the official record of the PM’s previous commitments to hold the meaningful vote and then subsequent votes on whether to proceed with no deal or delay Article 50 if her deal is rejected.
Boles said: “I am sure that the Prime Minister will honour these three commitments.
“If she doesn’t she will forfeit the confidence of the House of Commons.”
Cooper, who together with Boles secured the commitments to votes on no deal and delaying Brexit, said said the PM was “obliged” to hold them this week.
“My view is that those commitments still stand. Those are the commitments that she made to us and I believe she will stand by them. Because as I said earlier I don’t believe the prime minister of this country, Theresa May will straight up lie to us about something like that. It is too important.”
If May pulls the votes, Cooper’s cross-party group will resurrect efforts to take control of the process, she warned.
“I would be looking to put alternative amendments or motions down in order to make sure those votes could happen, Cooper said.
“She can’t allow us to just drift toward the cliff edge without parliament putting back in place that safeguard if the government does unexpectedly try to remove it.”
Cooper said she and others would push to “pin down a process” which could bring about indicative votes “one step at a time”.
May spent the weekend engaging in another round of diplomacy in calls with EU leaders including French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as speaking to Juncker.
Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels: “They took stock of the work done at technical level over the weekend. No further meetings at political level are scheduled but both sides will remain in close contact this week.
“The commission has made proposals on further reassurances that the backstop, if used, will apply temporarily.
“We are committed to using best endeavours to find a subsequent agreement that replaces the backstop.”
The commission was “open and willing” to hold talks with the UK “at any time”.
“It is now for the House of Commons to take an important set of decisions this week,” he added.