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Furious Brexiteers threaten to depose Theresa May over Chequers deal

3 min read

Tory Brexiteers are weighing up a leadership challenge to Theresa May over her controversial Chequers deal.

The Prime Minister triumphed over top eurosceptics at a marathon Cabinet summit on Friday, as she won backing for her favoured plan to set up "a free trade area for goods" with the EU and "maintain a common rulebook" for standards.

But Brexiteers in her party - outraged at what they see as a 'soft Brexit' compromise - have already started circulating leadership letters, and 10 MPs are reported to be preparing their own calls for the Prime Minister to go.

One letter seen by the Sunday Times accuses Mrs May of plunging Britain into a state "of complete capitulation".

It declares: "All we have asked from the Prime Minister is that she sticks to what she has promised on repeated occasions when she declared that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and pledged to take back control of our money, borders and laws.

"But it now appears those promises are all a pretence and a charade intended to dupe the electorate, which is an insult to their intelligence."

The author adds: "In the interests of our country and the future of the Conservative party, I feel the time has come for a new leader."

A Cabinet source meanwhile tore into the Prime Minister, branding Mrs May a "Remain campaigner" and suggesting Conservative MPs should rise up against her.

They fumed: "After giving away all of our negotiating cards, without getting anything in return, it is clear May is rolling the pitch for a final humiliating surrender, capitulating to the EU on a form of freedom of movement.

"This move will hand Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Downing Street and end the Tory party’s chances of being in power for a generation.

"MPs in leave areas should think long and hard about the direction of the party and be aware that if we do not change course, they will lose seats en masse at the next election."

A senior Tory MP told PoliticsHome they believed Mrs May's compromise deal on Brexit - which will be put to EU leaders for the first time later this month - increased the likelihood of a Labour government.

"I am very unhappy about this agreement, and the EU will simply push for more. I genuinely now fear Corbyn will be in No 10 this time next year.

"I've had more than 20 Tory voters saying by email they are so angry they won't vote for us again."

Asked about May's future, they said: "If there isn't an accidental leadership election - which would be madness - it will all kick off in October after the EU summit."

Former Tory leader and arch-Eurosceptic Iain Duncan Smith told the Sunday Telegraph that Mrs May's plan amounted to "continued membership" of the EU's customs union and single market, breaching the Prime Minister's self-declared "red lines" on Brexit.

"If the public perceive that not to be delivered, then the Government, I’m afraid, will suffer the consequences at the next election," he warned.

But a defiant Prime Minister - who can only be challenged with the signatures of 48 Tory MPs - batted away suggestions her leadership was under threat.

She told the Sunday Times: "The only challenge that needs to be made now is to the European Union to get serious about this, to come round the table and discuss it with us."

A string of Cabinet ministers also rallied around her on Sunday, with senior Brexiteers including Michael Gove and Chris Grayling writing glowing articles about the Chequers deal.

Mrs May will face her Tory critics on Monday when she addresses the 1922 Committee meeting of Conservative backbenchers.

She could also face angry interventions from her own side when makes a statement to Parliament about the plan.

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