Brexit secretary says defeat for bill would leave choice between no deal or revoke. The vote on the withdrawal agreement bill will be make or break for Theresa May’s future as prime minister, Downing Street has indicated, as a member of her cabinet said defeat could also kill off the deal entirely.
No 10 said the key piece of Brexit legislation would be voted on in the week beginning 3 June, and talks with Labour would continue in the meantime.
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May is set for a tense meeting on Thursday morning with the 1922 Committee executive, the body that represents backbench Tory MPs, who have demanded she set out a timetable for her departure regardless of whether the bill is passed.
Sources on the executive said setting the date for the bill would not satisfy the demand from the 1922 Committee, whose more bellicose members have suggested radically rewriting party rules to force the prime minister from office.
“It might be her aim [to satisfy demands for a departure date] but it is not going to work. That is not the way we see it,” one source on the committee said. “The same demand still stands tomorrow, very much so. I don’t think she will set it out, but we are expecting her to do so. If the bill is defeated, that really is the end of the road though, even if can-kicking is a professional sport nowadays.”
Changing the rules was rejected by the majority of the committee but only on the condition that the prime minister makes the date of her exit more explicit. May will face a no-confidence vote from party officials and members on 15 June at an extraordinary general meeting – though it is non-binding.
May’s spokesman declined to confirm that the prime minister would see it as the last act of her premiership if she were to lose the vote at the bill’s second reading, but said the PM understood its significance.
“Clearly the significance of this piece of legislation can’t and I suspect won’t be underestimated,” the spokesman said. “The absolute determination and focus of the government will be to get this thing through and passed.”
Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, speaking to the Lords EU select committee, suggested the vote would be the final throw of the dice for the deal negotiated with the EU’s Michel Barnier.
“I think if the House of Commons does not approve the [bill] then the Barnier deal is dead in that form and I think the house will have to then address a much more fundamental question between whether it will pursue … a no-deal option or whether it will revoke,” he said.