Theresa May has warned Tory MPs plotters trying to oust her from Number 10 that Brexit could be “delayed or frustrated”.
The Prime Minister has given her first live TV interview after an extraordinary week in which her draft Brexit deal triggered a revolt among backbench Tory MPs.
She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge party rivals thinking of replacing her were “not going to make the negotiations any easier” and that the next seven days will be “critical” for Brexit talks.
May also insisted that MPs bidding to topple her did not have the 48 names needed to trigger a confidence vote in her leadership.
On Wednesday, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who leads the hard Brexit Tory faction the European Research Group, revealed he had penned a letter to the party’s 1922 committee and called on others to do the same.
Zac Goldsmith and Sir Bill Cash are the latest Tory MPs to follow suit, taking the official count to 25. It is thought the real number is closer to 40, but not all MPs have gone public.
Asked on Ridge whether she had considered quitting, Theresa May said: “No I haven’t.
“Of course it has been a tough week, actually these negotiations have been tough right from the start, but they were always going to get even more difficult right toward the end when we are coming to that conclusion.”
She said: “I spoke to Sir Graham Brady at the end of last week, I have regular conversations with Sir Graham Brady.
“Graham Brady will make it known if 48 letters are reached, Graham Brady will make it known.”
Asked if the 48 letter threshold had been reached she added: “As far as I know, no, the answer to your question is no.”
Regarding a change of leadership, May added: “What it will do is bring in a degree of uncertainty.
“That is uncertainty for people and their jobs.
“What it will do is mean that it is a risk that we delay the negotiations and that is a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated.”
May said that the next seven days “are going to be critical”, and said she would be travelling back to Brussels to talk to figures including Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president.
She told Ridge: “I will be going back to Brussels.
“The negotiating teams are working as we speak and obviously which day I go back to Brussels... will partly be about how those negotiations go.
“I will be going back to Brussels, I will be in touch with other leaders as well, because the summit next week - and it is next week - this special European Council, will be among the European leaders.”
May also defended her Brexit deal, telling Sky News that the EU originally wanted to offer the UK an “off-the-shelf deal”.
She said: “We fought that, we stood our ground, we said no, we’re the UK, actually we can have a better more ambitious relationship with you.
“It took time but they have come round to that, they said yes, we’ll agree a more ambitious relationship with the UK than we at first thought we could give you.”
The Prime Minister also laughed off suggestions that the controversial Irish backstop represented a “Hotel California” Brexit - from which you could never leave.
May said the backstop is an “insurance policy”, adding: “Both sides can say yes we agree that there are arrangements in place, that a deal that provides for the people of Northern Ireland and therefore that backstop is no longer necessary.”
Pressed over what the Government would do in the event a vote on the Brexit deal was lost in the Commons, Mrs May said: “There’s a process that Parliament will go through, were it the case that the deal was lost then the Government would come back with their proposals for what the next step was.”