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Sat, 11 July 2020

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Jeremy Hunt urges Theresa May to scrap Brexit bill as her leadership hangs in balance

Jeremy Hunt urges Theresa May to scrap Brexit bill as her leadership hangs in balance
2 min read

Jeremy Hunt has called on Theresa May to scrap her flagship Brexit bill rather than force Tory MPs in Leave-backing seats to support it.

The Foreign Secretary set out his concerns to the Prime Minister in a Downing Street meeting as pressure grew on her to announce when she is resigning.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid also called on Mrs May to ditch her plan to give MPs a vote on whether to hold a second EU referendum during "frank" talks in Number 10.

The PM will hold crunch talks with Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, on Friday morning, during which he will urge her to set a date for her departure.

If she decides to fight on, he will then open an envelope to reveal whether members of the committee's executive have voted to change Conservative Party rules to make it possible to oust her within weeks.

In a major U-turn, Theresa May was forced to ditch plans to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill - the legislation needed to ratify Brexit - on Friday following a Cabinet revolt over its contents.

It is understood that in his meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr Hunt told her to pull the bill completely, arguing that it had no chance of being approved by MPs.

The Foreign Secretary said it was unfair to expect Tory MPs representing Brexit-backing areas to use up their political capital supporting a bill which was doomed to failure.

Meanwhile, in his meeting with the Prime Minister afterwards, Mr Javid told her to remove the part of the WAB which could lay the ground for another referendum.

A source said: "They had a frank discussion and he was very clear with her that the Government should not be paving the way for a second referendum. He was pleased that she has delayed the WAB and that she's gone away to think about it again."

A Downing Street spokesman refused to confirm that Mrs May would still be Prime Minister when the bill is finally voted on by MPs.

He would only say: "There was a vote to leave the EU, there is a clear desire in Parliament to leave with a deal. In order to leave with a deal, we have to find a way to get the WAB over the line. It is clear there is a job of work to do that.

"She remains focused on delivering the Brexit that the country voted for."