SEETHING Tory hardliners lashed out at Theresa May on Tuesday night as it emerged she also suffered a bitter Cabinet revolt over her plan for a softer Brexit with Labour.
Confirming the Leavers’ worst fears, the PM’s spokesman on Tuesday night refused to rule out agreeing a customs union with Jeremy Corbyn, or even a second referendum for the public to confirm her deal.
Opposing both were strict Tory manifesto commitments.
The only element that Mrs May won’t negotiate is revoking Article 50 to cancel Brexit altogether, No10 said.
Mrs May’s spokesman would only add: “Unless there is compromise on both sides, we will not be able to find a way forward”.
Senior Tories on Tuesday night predicted a customs union with the EU is now an almost certain outcome to any cross-party deal.
But supporters of Mrs May’s plan argued it was better to guarantee Brexit is delivered by the end of next month, even if it is a soft one, than risk losing it altogether at the hands of Remain MPs.
One Cabinet minister told The Sun: “We just need to get Brexit over the line now and worry about reshaping it later”.
We have given Jeremy Corbyn legitimacy
Iain Duncan Smith, ex-Tory leader
Reacting with immediate fury, Boris Johnson told Sky News that the pivot was “bitterly disappointing”, adding: “Brexit is becoming soft to the point of disintegration”.
Other furious Eurosceptics said MPs were talking about going on strike in a desperate bid to “get rid” of Mrs May.
Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith stormed: “I am deeply worried.
“The agreement is over and what we are looking at now is a completely different set of arrangements, dictated by Jeremy Corbyn, the worst political leader in the history of the Labour Party.
“We have given Jeremy Corbyn legitimacy.”
The DUP on Tuesday night said Mrs May’s decision to “sub-contract out the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn” came as “little surprise” due to her “lamentable handling of the negotiations with the EU.
In a statement the party said:We will continue to use our position within Parliament and with the Government to argue strongly the case for Northern Ireland and the integrity of the United Kingdom.
“We remain consistent in judging all Brexit outcomes against our clear unionist principles.”
In an extraordinarily personal attack on the PM on Tuesday night the Brexiteer Tory MP Henry Smith blasted on twitter: “Theresa May represents a monumental failure of British leadership, a betrayal of the majority who voted to leave the EU and Conservative Party membership. I called for her to go last year, incredibly she has descended further still. I cannot countenance her Corbyn/Brexit process.”
Outlying a twin path, if no deal could be reached with Mr Corbyn, Mrs May said she would put a full array of alternative Brexit outcomes to a new Commons vote, and MPs will then decide what happens.
The delay plan was thrashed out by a marathon seven hour Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that was peppered with fiery clashes between bitter rival Remainers and Leavers.
I HAVE just come from chairing seven hours of Cabinet meetings focused on finding a route out of the current impasse – one that will deliver the Brexit the British people voted for, and allow us to move on and begin bringing our divided country back together.
I know there are some who are so fed up with delay and endless arguments that they would like to leave with No Deal next week.
I have always been clear that we could make a success of No Deal in the long-term. But leaving with a deal is the best solution.
So we will need a further extension of Article 50 – one that is as short as possible and which ends when we pass a deal.
And we need to be clear what such an extension is for – to ensure we leave in a timely and orderly way.
This debate, this division, cannot drag on much longer.
It is putting Members of Parliament and everyone else under immense pressure – and it is doing damage to our politics.
Despite the best efforts of MPs, the process that the House of Commons has tried to lead has not come up with an answer.
So today I am taking action to break the logjam: I am offering to sit down with the Leader of the Opposition and to try to agree a plan – that we would both stick to – to ensure that we leave the European Union and that we do so with a deal.
Any plan would have to agree the current Withdrawal Agreement – it has already been negotiated with the 27 other members, and the EU has repeatedly said that it cannot and will not be reopened.
What we need to focus on is our Future Relationship with the EU.
The ideal outcome of this process would be to agree an approach on a Future Relationship that delivers on the result of the Referendum, that both the Leader of the Opposition and I could put to the House for approval, and which I could then take to next week’s European Council.
However, if we cannot agree on a single unified approach, then we would instead agree a number of options for the Future Relationship that we could put to the House in a series of votes to determine which course to pursue.
Crucially, the Government stands ready to abide by the decision of the House.
But to make this process work, the Opposition would need to agree to this too.
The Government would then bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. We would want to agree a timetable for this Bill to ensure it is passed before 22nd May so that the United Kingdom need not take part in European Parliamentary Elections.
This is a difficult time for everyone. Passions are running high on all sides of the argument.
But we can and must find the compromises that will deliver what the British people voted for.
This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands. And it requires national unity to deliver the national interest.
Major interventions by Geoffrey Cox and Michael Gove were deemed “by far the most significant interventions”, The Sun was told on Tuesday night.
Attorney General Mr Cox turned the debate in Mrs May’s favour by telling the room: “We have to do things differently. What we’re doing now isn’t working”.
He was immediately backed up Environment Secretary Mr Gove.
There was “collective agreement” among the Cabinet to the PM’s plan, No10 added – but refused to confirm the decision was unanimous.
One Cabinet source on Tuesday night claimed that Mrs May’s decision to go for another delay was initially opposed by as many as 14 of the Cabinet’s 29 members.
That would have given the PM herself the deciding say, though there was no show of hands.
But another senior Government figure disputed the claim to say only FOUR actually opposed any new delay – Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss.
And by late on Tuesday night, none of the Cabinet had resigned, and The Sun was told by one senior member of it that “nobody threatened to” during the epic meeting either.
In one tense clash, Mr Williamson and Ms Leadsom both repeatedly demanded full votes of the Cabinet to be recorded so their opposition to the plan would be formally noted.
But they were shouted down by a series of ministers who insisted that was against all Cabinet precedent.
There was another dramatic clash between Chancellor Philip Hammond and his deputy in the Treasury, Liz Truss.
Converted Leaver Ms Truss asked for an economic assessment to be done of what would happen to the UK’s prospects if it didn’t leave the EU.
But Mr Hammond immediately hit back to silence her: “Liz, we have all the economic facts”.
Another Cabinet minister was on Tuesday night doubted whether the PM’s high risk move would succeed, or collapse under the weight of major opposition from Tory MPs.
The senior minister said: “It’s a small victory, but let’s see how long it holds”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accepted the PM’s offer for talks on Tuesday night, declaring he is “very happy” to meet her.
He added: “I don’t want to set any limits, one way or the other, ahead of those meetings. We recognise that she has made a move”.
Talks between the pair are expected to start on Wednesday.
In a breakneck timetable, Mrs May wants to tie up the plan with Mr Corbyn in time for another emergency meeting of EU leaders in Brussels next Wednesday, April 10, so they can green light the new Article 50 extension.
The possibility of an election was also discussed at length by the cabinet.
But the consensus was that it was a very bad idea, after Chairman Brandon Lewis delivered a grim presentation on current polling and the Tories’empty coffers.
EU chief Donald Tusk on Tuesday night signalled Brussels would allow the new delay.
He tweeted: “Even if, after today, we don’t know what the end result will be, let us be patient”.
It also emerged on Tuesday night that planning for European Parliament elections on May 23 would go ahead, in case the Commons enforces another even longer delay.
Environment Secretary and Brexiteer Michael Gove was sent out to the TV stations to defend the decision.
He told BBC News: “The most important thing to do is to make sure we can get an agreement to leave the EU in an appropriate way.
“And that is the purpose of extending this invitation to the leader of the Opposition, and it’s also the purpose of the Prime Minister saying to the House of Commons – now we really do need to agree.”
Backbench May loyalist Tory MP Richard Graham also welcomed her plan, saying: “Everyone knows No Deal is off the table, and that is a significant step forward”.
The Pound shot up on the news, and it was also welcomed by business chiefs.
Institute of Directors boss Edwin Morgan dubbed it “a welcome step towards compromise”.
The Sun Says
THE Prime Minister has more faith in Jeremy Corbyn than we do.
Ever since 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU, he’s been shamelessly two-faced, claiming to work for the national interest whilst doing everything he can to implode the Government.
Corbyn and his cronies have claimed that Labour’s magical unicorn of a plan — of customs union membership “with a say” on future trade deals — is acceptable to Brussels. Well, let’s see it.
It is a crying shame that a clean break was effectively taken off the table years ago by this Government’s, and particularly this Chancellor’s, refusal to properly prepare for No Deal.
And those ERG hardliners, who refused to confront reality over not one, not two but three votes, deserve plenty of flak too. They can’t say they weren’t warned.
We loathe the idea of a softer Brexit. But at least it would unblock this paralysing stalemate. And we know Parliament will now do anything to avoid No Deal — even revoking Brexit completely.
But it is vital — for the public’s faith in democracy — that the Withdrawal Agreement is passed and we aren’t forced to hold European elections.
And an optimist must hope that the Tories are able to win a mandate in future to leave whatever customs fudge we end up in.
All of this assumes that the Marxist opportunists in charge of the Labour Party don’t use this crisis to win themselves some party political points.
The frontbench want the Government to collapse so they can force a General Election on the country.
The backbenches, with a vanishingly small number of honourable exceptions, are full of elitist Remainers who are desperate to overturn the Brexit vote, come what may.
There’s every chance their condition for talks is a confirmatory referendum. The PM must be clear: that won’t fly.
Nobody can ever accuse Theresa May of putting party before country. Her decision could split hers right down the middle.
It’s now time to see if Jeremy Corbyn has the same moral fibre. Previous evidence – over not just the past few years but a lifetime – suggests otherwise.
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He added: “There was a clear indication of how the Government sees the next steps unfolding but time is of the essence and the outcome of all this is still far from clear”.
In an extraordinary scene on Tuesday, the Cabinet were ordered to stay behind in No10 for more than an hour after the meeting finally ended.
They were held in a large room without access to their phones to stop them leaking the decision, as No10 staff fed them red wine.
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