Archive for the ‘British politics’ Category

Theresa May asks EU’s help with ‘at risk’ Brexit deal

Theresa May appealed directly to EU leaders to help her save her Brexit deal, insisting that it is the only one that can win a majority in parliament — but offered no clear path for securing it.

Addressing her fellow heads of government at the European Council summit in Brussels Thursday, May repeated her call for fresh assurances on the controversial backstop plan — a key component of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement designed to avoid the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland.

She said the EU could help change MPs’ minds on the backstop with the right assurances and warned that unless attitudes among Conservative Brexiteers and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party could be shifted, the U.K. risked an “accidental no deal, with all the disruption that would bring.”

“But we have to change the perception that the backstop could be a trap from which the U.K. could not escape. Until we do, the deal — our deal — is at risk,” she said, according to a Downing Street’s briefing on her remarks.

The prime minister pulled a House of Commons vote on her Brexit deal this week, acknowledging that some MPs required more assurance that the backstop would not be required and that, if it were, it would not become permanent. Earlier today, her spokesperson confirmed that she would not bring the vote before parliament until the new year, to give time for more talks with the EU27.

“With the right assurances this deal can be passed,” May insisted in her pitch to leaders. “Indeed it is the only deal that is capable of getting through my parliament.”

However, it remains unclear precisely what assurances the U.K. is seeking, what the EU is prepared to offer, and whether it would be enough to persuade MPs implacably opposed to the backstop that they should support her plan.

May has spoken of “legal and political” commitments, but EU leaders have ruled out re-opening negotiations on the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement.

U.K. officials said that anything they took back to parliament would need to have “legal force,” but added that they kept an “open mind” as to how that might be achieved.

May is hoping this week’s summit will provide the political instruction for a restart of technical negotiations between the two sides, with a view to bringing the deal back to parliament by January 21 at the latest.

With the clock ticking down to the U.K.’s legally enshrined exit day March 29 2019, officials insisted May was not contemplating extending the Article 50 negotiating period, but admitted they wanted to start work on proposals May could take back to parliament “as soon as possible.”

In a direct appeal to EU27 leaders, before they met to discuss Brexit without her over dinner, May called on them to trust her judgement.

“Over the last two years I hope I have shown that you can trust me to do what is right, not always what is easy, however difficult that might be for me politically,” she said.

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Brexit Britain: Small, boring and stupid

BRUSSELS — So here we are at the supposed Brexit cliff — a political crisis and diplomatic crisis rolled into one — and I have a confession. I’m thoroughly bored by it all.

I suspect I’m not alone.

For those beyond Brussels and London, maybe just starting to tune in, here’s some advice. Let go of any illusions that this drama is about trade protocols, residency rights or the status of the Irish border. The histrionics going on in the United Kingdom aren’t even really about its impending departure from the European Union — or about Prime Minister Theresa May’s tenuous attempts to cling to power.

Brexit is the story of a proud former imperial power undergoing a mid-life crisis. The rest of the world is left listening to Britain’s therapy session as they drone on about their ex-spouse, the EU: When will they stop talking and just move on?

The promise of Brexit at the time it narrowly passed in a national referendum in June of 2016 was that it was a way for Britain to feel big again — no longer hectored by the EU bureaucracy in Brussels, no longer treated as just one of 28 members in an unwieldy confederacy.

The U.K. simply doesn’t seem to know how to play the game of give and take needed to negotiate with a far larger partner.

“Britain is special,” the Brexiteers assured British voters, who cast their ballots accordingly.

The last two years have revealed something different: For the first time in modern history, Britain is small. Having sailed into the 20th century as an empire, the U.K. spent the second half of the century shedding nearly all of its colonies — and as a result much of its economic and military might.

But that was ok, in part because the U.K. — a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and a nuclear power — had a close ally in the United States. But even more importantly, it was alright because, just as decolonization was drawing to an end, the U.K. joined an emerging economic and political power: the EU.

The U.K. finally overcame French objections and joined the bloc in 1973, seven years before it lowered the Union Jack in its last African colony and more than a decade before it struck an agreement with China to hand over Hong Kong.

Ignorant about its leverage and ignorant about the EU, the U.K. is coming across as clumsy and caddish.

Britain’s imperial history and 45 years of membership in the EU — where London was a dominant voice — is why it is struggling to conduct diplomacy as the middling power it is now becoming. Accustomed to issuing colonial diktats or throwing its medium-sized weight around a medium-sized pond, the U.K. simply doesn’t seem to know how to play the game of give and take needed to negotiate with a far larger partner.

It is perhaps because of this history that many people in the U.K. are so awfully uninformed about the EU. Its political and journalistic classes are simply unused to having to consider the opinions of others.

I can’t say I’m surprised. From various perspectives — now as a journalist, formerly an adviser to both the U.K. government and the EU, and always a citizen of the Commonwealth — I’ve been immersed in Brexit and Britain’s identity complex for years.

While many Brits have strong emotions about the EU, they rarely have a strong understanding. I feel like a kindergarten teacher every time I speak on the issue.

It is fashionable to blame an irresponsible U.K. media (including the country’s most famous sometime-journalist, now leading Brexiteer MP Boris Johnson) for stoking misunderstanding about the EU for decades. Long before Macedonian troll factories and Russian bots there were the editors of the Sun tabloid newspaper.

But what about the millions of people who consumed those fibs and the spineless politicians who avoided the hassle of correcting them? We blame Greeks for blowing up their economy and hold accountable big-spending governments for saddling future generations with excessive debts. Britons don’t deserve a free pass: It’s time they reckoned with what they sowed through 45 years of shallow EU debate.

It is Britain’s unique ignorance that makes Britain so boring. Ignorant about its leverage and ignorant about the EU, the U.K. is coming across as clumsy and caddish.

Nothing tells the story better than the sad stop-start diplomacy of Theresa May. The prime minister is an appropriate leader for a shrinking Britain — one without a clear or consistent vision, whose efforts at both navigating Brexit and her own political survival seem driven by awkward improvisation.

London’s demands are simply unrealistic, as anybody with more than a passing familiarity with the EU can tell you.

Her frequent mad dashes across Europe underline how the U.K. lost the negotiation before it had begun. May flies across the Continent with fanfare, but her trips are always driven by domestic pressures — not a desire to find common ground with those on the other side of the table.

Meanwhile, EU negotiators have laboriously and quietly toured every capital, building up their united front before the talks started. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier could find himself locked in a thousand black cars, and it wouldn’t matter: He’d step out smiling every time.

Britain’s political contortions are symptoms of an almost willful lack of understanding: The U.K. doesn’t know what it wants from the EU, and doesn’t really know what it wants from getting out.

For decades, as one of the EU’s larger — and more troublesome — members, London secured itself special deals inside the EU. It won rebates from its budget contributions and opted out of the euro and Schengen rules governing border checks. It now feels entitled to similar treatments as it leaves.

Today Britain wants things it already has (frictionless trade with the EU), without continuing to pay the price other EU members pay to have it (the legal, economic and political constraints that come with EU membership).

London’s demands are simply unrealistic, as anybody with more than a passing familiarity with the EU can tell you.

Balancing competing interests is difficult enough for individual countries. Look at U.S. Congress, the German federal system, or even the mighty French presidency trying to cope with the yellow vest street protest movement. Doing the same across 27 countries is even harder. Negotiations take time, and any sudden sharp policy change has the potential to disrupt the EU’s equilibrium.

The deal on offer is the best London is going to get — simply because it is the best Brussels is going to be able to offer.

And yet, cheered on by two ex-U.K. Brexit negotiators who barely bothered to show up in Brussels and negotiate, British politicians are lining up like whiny children to demand the remaining 27 EU countries make amendments to the Brexit deal.

Britain has a lesson to learn. What a global power can pass off as “exceptionalism,” for a medium-sized country simply comes across as ingratitude.

Ryan Heath is POLITICO’s political editor.

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May plays down summit hopes as EU makes red lines clear

Theresa May played down expectations she will secure the “assurances” she is seeking on her Brexit deal at Thursday’s European Council summit, as leaders poured cold water on any hopes of a substantial renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Speaking on her arrival at the summit in Brussels, May said she did not expect “an immediate breakthrough,” and that she only hoped to be able to “start work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary.”

May pulled a House of Commons vote on her Brexit deal at the 11th hour this week, promising fresh commitments from the EU that the backstop arrangement for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland — which would require the U.K to effectively remain in the EU’s customs union — is unlikely to ever be triggered and if it were, would not be permanent.

EU leaders have said they are prepared to offer “clarifications” but not to reopen the 585-page, legally binding Withdrawal Agreement. They have long objected to the backstop having a time limit in law.

After winning a bruising vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative party on Wednesday, May pledged to seek “political and legal assurances” — but distance appears to be opening up between her expectations and what EU leaders are willing to give.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who May met ahead of the summit, said that while the EU was prepared to help the British prime minister get her deal over the line at home, it would not renegotiate the backstop.

“When it comes to the assurances Prime Minister May is seeking, as the European Union we are very keen to offer explanations, assurances, clarifications, anything that may assist MPs understand the agreement and hopefully to support it,” Varadkar told reporters as he arrived at the summit. “But the backstop is not on the table.”

Without going into detail he said some of May’s suggestions had “made sense,” but that others would be “difficult.”

The message was echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who emphasized that discussions on Brexit at the summit would be “political” not “legal.”

“I believe it is important to avoid any ambiguity: We can’t re-open a legal agreement and we can’t renegotiate what has been negotiated for several months,” he said.

With May facing a political impasse at home, apparently unable to secure a parliamentary majority for her deal, the fate of the Brexit process remains in the balance, just three months before the U.K.’s scheduled exit day.

Asked whether May could delay Brexit to win time, Varadkar said it was “certainly an option” but that he wanted to press ahead with the deal as it stands.

On arriving at the summit, May also confirmed that she had told MPs she would stand down before the next U.K. general election, scheduled for 2022 — but declined to set a specific date for her departure.

“In my heart I would love to be able to lead the Conservative party into the next election but I think it is right that the party feels they would prefer to go into that election with a new leader,” she said.

“People try to talk about dates. What I’m clear about is the next election is in 2022 and I think it’s right that another party leader takes us into that general election,” she said.

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EU leaders to affirm Brexit deal ‘not open for renegotiation’

The Brexit deal is “not open for renegotiation,” EU leaders will affirm in a text due to be agreed at a summit in Brussels Thursday.

EU27 ambassadors discussed the document, which has been seen by POLITICO, at a meeting Wednesday in preparation for the European Council summit.

The “draft conclusions” run to just over a page and consist of six paragraphs, four of which are in square brackets meaning they are yet to be agreed. They amount to a menu of options for leaders, aimed mainly at providing the “assurances” U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking over the so-called Northern Ireland backstop — the arrangement written into the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement that guarantees there will be no need for a hard border and protects the Good Friday agreement.

May survived a vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative party Wednesday evening, but 117 of her MPs voted against her and she acknowledged the significant degree of skepticism among her backbenchers over the backstop issue.

“I will be seeking legal and political assurances that will assuage the concerns that members of parliament have on that issue,” she said after the vote.

The EU wants to “work speedily” on a trade deal so the backstop “will never be triggered.”

The draft conclusions suggest EU leaders want to help her sell the deal in Westminster, but are not prepared to reopen talks on the legal text.

The document reaffirms the decision by EU leaders on November 25 to endorse the Withdrawal Agreement and approve the Political Declaration. “The Union stands by this agreement and intends to proceed with its ratification. It is not open for renegotiation,” the text states.

Paragraph three, which is not yet agreed, states that the backstop “does not represent a desirable outcome for the Union,” and emphasizes it is only an “insurance policy.” The text states the EU wants to “work speedily” on a trade deal so that “it will never be triggered.”

The fourth paragraph contains further assurances that the backstop “would apply only temporarily unless and until” a new agreement comes into place. And in this scenario, the EU would do its best to conclude “expeditiously” a new agreement to replace the backstop that would be in place only as long as “strictly necessarily.”

Theresa May survived a vote of confidence on Wednesday night | Leon Neal/Getty Images

The document goes on to promise — again in a section that is not yet agreed — that the EU27 will look at any “further assurance” that can be provided to the U.K., although it is clear this cannot depart from the legally-binding language in the deal itself. “Such assurance will not change or contradict the Withdrawal Agreement,” the document states.

The final part of the text, which is locked down, is a call to intensify “work on preparedness at all levels” taking into account “all possible outcomes.”

EU27 ambassadors were not expecting to discuss or draft a document at the meeting Wednesday evening, according to an agenda seen by POLITICO. But this was subsequently changed.

“[Piotr] Serafin had several texts ready in the drawer,” said an EU diplomat, referring to Council President Donald Tusk’s main adviser.

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Theresa May and Brexiteers lick wounds after leadership clash

LONDON — The Brexiteers missed their kill shot, but wounded the prime minister nonetheless.

Despite widespread frustration with the prime minister among all sections of the Conservative Party, Theresa May survived the first coordinated attempted political assassination on her premiership Wednesday.

She did so, however, only at significant cost to her authority and credibility as she made a series of seemingly contradictory last-ditch pledges which may prove impossible to deliver.

But in failing to bring her down, the Euroskeptic backbench caucus in her party have in the process nudged the U.K. further away from the hard break with Europe that they say is the only faithful interpretation of the 2016 Brexit referendum vote that has consumed the country’s political class.

By 200 votes to 117, Tory MPs voted to keep May in place as Conservative Party leader in a secret ballot Wednesday night — a desperate result in ordinary circumstances, but one that now protects the prime minister from further challenge by her party for 12 months.

Despite Wednesday’s victory within her party, the result still leaves the prime minister more than 100 votes short of a majority in the House of Commons, without which she cannot get her Brexit deal through parliament.

Yet, with two out of three Conservative MPs backing her leadership, the result also leaves Brexiteer rebels isolated in their quest to keep alive the prospect of walking away from the EU without any deal at all. They see as preferable to the compromises Brussels is demanding.

Shorn of the main mechanism to remove May from power, all they have left — bar repeated guerrilla tactics — is the nuclear option of joining opposition parties in a vote of no confidence in the government itself, which risks ushering in a general election and a Labour government.

The main upshot, Tory MPs said Wednesday night, is that Brexit can only get softer from here on in, as the government looks either to the Labour benches for support or manages to persuade Conservative MPs previously hostile to the deal to hold their nose for risk of jeopardizing Brexit altogether.

“We’ve killed no deal, that’s what we’ve done,” one Tory minister said last night. Conservative Party Deputy Chairman James Cleverly agreed. “There is no parliamentary majority for Brexit on WTO terms,” he said. “The House of Commons has made this position very clear.”

May appeared to reach out to Labour MPs in her statement outside No. 10 Downing Street following the vote. “We now need to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people and building a better future for this country.

“A Brexit that delivers on the vote that people gave, that brings back control of our money, our borders and our laws, that protects jobs, security and the Union, that brings the country back together rather than entrenching division,” she said. “That must start here in Westminster, with politicians on all sides coming together and acting in the national interest.”

Even hardline Brexiteers appeared to draw the same conclusion Wednesday night. “We will have to make further compromises,” leading Euroskeptic backbencher Bernard Jenkin said.

Trouble delayed

While the route to no-deal is now far more challenging — though not impossible given the looming deadline of March 29 — the path to passing an agreement through the House of Commons remains treacherous.

The prime minister can hold on to power only as long as Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her government in Westminster, maintain their confidence in her.

As of Wednesday night that confidence was so thin as to be barely visible, the faint outlines of which were only kept alive by a series of last-ditch promises made to MPs on Wednesday — sparking raised eyebrows among ministers and concern from senior government officials who fear they will be impossible to meet.

May told Tory MPs on Wednesday she would wrestle from the EU “legally binding” changes to the protection for the Irish border set out in the divorce deal she has agreed with Brussels, win back DUP support, and not call another snap general election.

The noises coming out of Brussels and the numbers in parliament tell a very different story.

Senior Cabinet minister Liz Truss explained what clarifications the prime minister is seeking from the EU. “[It would be] legally binding that it’s temporary” she said.

EU leaders and officials have repeated endlessly that the Withdrawal Agreement — which includes the contentious Irish backstop arrangement — cannot be reopened. “There is no room for renegotiation,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday. “But further clarifications are possible.” In other words: New words on new pieces of paper, but the backstop is the backstop.

But without changes to the backstop, the DUP insist May’s second pledge — to win back their support — is impossible to keep.

Emerging from talks with the prime minister Wednesday, DUP leader Arlene Foster said only “fundamental legal text changes” to the Withdrawal Agreement was enough to win their support.

May’s current deal is “dangerous to our economy and the Union,” Foster said. “Tinkering around the edges,” is not enough.

One senior DUP official said that unless the prime minister met their demands about the backstop, the party’s confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservatives would be “dead.”

“We have plenty of options,” the official said.

One leading Tory Brexiteer said this was key. Without DUP support the PM could not survive. “The DUP will pull the plug,” he said. “She’s finished. The union means more to them than anything else.”

‘Limp on’

Even her most headline-grabbing pledge — a promise to her party not to lead them into the next election — amounts to little, many MPs said Wednesday.

Without DUP support, May cannot guarantee there will not be an election because she will have lost her majority and her opponents in parliament could force her into one. And if there is a snap election and she didn’t resign of her own volition, Tory MPs have just blown their chance to get rid of her.

“Anyway, whoever thought we’d limp on to 2022 anyway,” said one frustrated Tory MP who backed May “through gritted teeth.”

If May cannot win the concessions from Brussels required to win back DUP and Tory support, and unless she calls a second referendum or general election to change the parliamentary arithmetic entirely, she is reliant on the support of Labour MPs.

One Tory minister said this was now the obvious route May would pursue. “Opposition to no deal was uniting the opposition,” he said. “But that’s gone. The real question now is the split in the Labour party between those who want no Brexit and those who want to see it through.”

Labour, too, are split. The party’s official position is that it wants a general election, but if it can’t get that it will back a second referendum. This uneasy compromise holds the party together, but overtures from the prime minister could test this superficial unity.

One shadow Labour minister put support for a second referendum among Labour MPs at 60. “The rest would only support it out of necessity to break the deadlock,” he said. A second Labour MP said there are now “more than 100” who would back another “people’s vote.”

Asked to name the price Labour MPs would demand to bail out the government, the shadow minister said: “Permanent customs union [with the EU].” For many Brexiteers, that simply isn’t Brexit at all. 

Theresa May wins confidence vote

LONDON — U.K Prime Minister Theresa May won a vote of confidence Wednesday, defeating an attempt by some of her party to oust her and install a new leader to take control of Brexit.

Her victory comes as short-term relief for May but marks a crisis delayed, not averted, at a critical time in negotiations with the European Union.

The prime minister won the vote of Conservative party MPs by 200 votes to 117. The margin of 83 is an uncomfortable one for May, and will do nothing to boost her authority in the party or the country, with only weeks remaining to secure a deal before the U.K. is set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.

May on Monday delayed a House of Commons vote on the deal she has agreed with Brussels, admitting it would have been rejected “by a significant margin” if the vote had gone ahead. Since then, she has been trying to seek additional assurances from the EU to win over MPs but European leaders have made clear they will not renegotiate the deal.

In an apparent bid to placate her internal critics, May told MPs at a meeting in Westminster before the ballot that she would not fight the 2022 general election — although her precise timetable for departure was left “deliberately vague,” according to one senior MP present.

Speaking in Downing Street after the result was announced, May acknowledged that a “significant number of colleagues” had chosen not to back her, but vowed to “get on with the job”and pledged to ask the EU for “legal and political assurances that assuage the concerns” MPs have about her Brexit deal.

Leading Euroskeptic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg described the result as “terrible” for the prime minister and called on her to quit. “Under all constitutional norms she ought to go and see the Queen urgently and resign,” he told the BBC.

The prime minister said she would seek “additional reassurances” from EU leaders that the Irish backstop would never be triggered, and would not be permanent if it were.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour party, said the vote made no difference to the fundamentals of May’s position.

“The prime minister has lost her majority in parliament, her government is in chaos and she is unable to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the country and puts jobs and the economy first,” he said, calling on May to bring her deal back to parliament for a vote next week.

The only relief for May is that another party vote of confidence cannot be held for an entire year. While the prime minister remains vulnerable to defeat over her Brexit plan in parliament, her hardline Brexiteer opponents will wonder if they triggered the vote prematurely.

Brexit-supporting MPs believe her deal will bind the U.K. too closely to EU rules. The Labour opposition is against, arguing they could negotiate a more economically beneficial deal, while other major opposition parties and some Labour MPs want a second referendum to give the U.K. the chance to reverse Brexit and remain in the EU.

Together, they have formed a large majority against May’s deal and it remains unclear how May can get her deal past the House of Commons, or what path the U.K. will take if she cannot. If no alternative path wins the support of parliament, the U.K. is currently set to leave the EU without a deal – an outcome that is widely expected to cause major economic disruption.

Conservative Brexiteers and May’s Northern Irish backers, the Democratic Unionist Party are also deeply opposed to the Irish backstop — a clause in the deal that guarantees no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but which would require the U.K. to effectively remain inside the EU’s customs union.

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, told the BBC May had now made commitments on the backstop to her own backbenchers and to his party, and they would now “wait and see.”

“Whatever she says, it is what is delivered in terms of the text that we will be examining very closely,” Dodds said.

The prime minister said she would seek “additional reassurances” from EU leaders that the Irish backstop would never be triggered, and would not be permanent if it were. On Thursday she will attend the European Council summit in Brussels to press her case.

She has set a 21 January deadline for passing a deal in parliament — a date that would give her little more than two months to implement the plan or prepare the country for no-deal exit.

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Theresa May tells MPs she will step aside before next election

LONDON — Theresa May told restive Conservative MPs that she will not lead the party into the next election, ahead of a confidence vote in her leadership, according to MPs present at the meeting.

Addressing the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers in Westminster, May urged colleagues to back her and that she had the “vision” to deliver Brexit, according to an MP present at the meeting. However, she added that “she won’t lead the party in the next election,” the MP, who declined to be identified, added.

The next election is currently scheduled for 2022. However, a second MP said that May had “deliberately kept it vague” as to precisely when she would stand down.

Another MP said: “You got the feeling from around the room that the majority were on her side. The question is going to be how many of this lot are going to vote for different reasons against her. I have no idea because you are dealing with the most duplicitous electorate in the world.”

The MP said that leading Brexiteers (including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson) were sitting at the back of the room “like Chinese generals sending the other ranks into action first.”

A fourth MP, George Freeman, tweeted that May had told MPs “once she has delivered an orderly Brexit, she will step aside for the election of a new Leader to lead the reunification & renewal we need.”

But Brexiteer backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg said May had hedged her bets on the 2022 question. “She said that in her heart she would like to fight the 2022 election but she realized that the party didn’t want her to, and therefore it was not her intention to. The word intention is a classic politician’s word because intentions can change. She did not say ‘I will not be the leader in 2022,’ she said it was not her intention.”

He described her answer as “very hesitant.” When asked whether she would stand down if there was a general election within the next year, he said, “she mumbled.”

Conservative Party Deputy Chairman James Cleverly told reporters outside the meeting that May had recognized “a lot of people aren’t comfortable with her leading us into a future general election.”

May also told MPs she would work hard to repair relations with the Conservatives’ Northern Irish backers the Democratic Unionist Party, and warned that installing a new leader now carried great risks, including a snap election.

“She said very clearly this would be a very, very bad time to replace a leader,” Cleverly said. “It would cause a delay, it would place a question mark over the timetable, it would give others the excuse to delay or even pull Article 50 completely [the U.K.’s official notification of its intention to leave the EU]. She said that would be completely unacceptable to the British people.”

“Her focus is about duty,” Cleverly said. “I know she uses that word a lot, but it was very clear she views her own duty to deliver this, that as a party we’ve got a duty to deliver this, that we will not be forgiven by the electorate if for whatever reason we get blown off course on this.”

Another Tory MP said May had told her backbenchers there was “work to be done, things to be delivered and she felt she also has a role, after Brexit, in bringing the party together, bringing the county together and moving forward on a strong domestic agenda — those were her words.”

MPs in the room said May faced probing questions about when she would bring her deal for a vote in the House of Commons and what she hoped to change. According to MPs present she felt positive progress had been made already in her discussions with EU leaders and she wanted to bring back a change with legal force to it and the DUP would be able to vote for.

Ballots opened for the confidence vote among Conservative MPs at 6 p.m. U.K. time and will close at 8 p.m. The result is expected at 9 p.m.

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