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Theresa May defies calls to name departure date as Cabinet coup fizzles out

3 min read

Theresa May has rejected calls to name the date of her departure from Downing Street as a Cabinet coup against her appeared to run out of steam.

The Times, The Telegraph and The Sun all report that Mrs May rebuffed demands to set out her timetable at a meeting with leading Conservative Brexiteers including Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab and Iain Duncan-Smith at her official Chequers residence.

The meeting - aimed at gauging whether the Prime Minister has enough support to bring her beleaguered Brexit deal back to the Commons for a third vote this week - came amid reports that 11 Cabinet ministers now want her to quit, with some pushing to install David Lidington or Michael Gove as caretaker Prime Minister.

But both candidates for the job stamped down the idea within hours of the reports emerging.

Mrs May's de facto deputy David Lidington told reporters he had “no wish” to take over from Mrs May, while Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he "absolutely" supported the Prime Minister.

Mr Gove added: "It's not the time to change the captain of the ship."

The Prime Minister - who will chair a meeting of her fractious Cabinet on Monday - summoned the Tory Brexiteers to her Buckinghamshire country pile for three hours of talks on Sunday afternoon.

The Telegraph reports that Mr Rees-Mogg asked the Prime Minister to set a timetable for her exit, with the Prime Minister declining to do so.

"It’s accurate to say that she refused to be drawn," a source meanwhile told The Times.

Downing Street remained tight-lipped about the substance of the meeting, with a spokesperson saying only: "The PM and a number of Government Minister met today at Chequers for lengthy talks with senior colleagues about delivering Brexit.

"The meeting discussed a range of issues, including whether there is sufficient support in the Commons to bring back a Meaningful Vote this week."


The meeting came as the Prime Minister prepared to set out plans to give MPs a series of so-called "indicative" votes on different Brexit outcomes - including a second referendum and customs union membership.

MPs will vote on a cross-party backbench bid to allow the series of ballots on Monday night - and ministers have already said they will present their own version of the plan if the move is voted down.

But the proposal has enraged Brexiteers who fear it will be used by Remain-supporting MPs to seize control of the Commons agenda and water down or stop Britain's departure.

Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary who quit the Cabinet in disgust at Mrs May's Brexit plans, said Mrs May had "chickened out" by asking the EU for a Brexit delay.

Writing in The Telegraph, he said: "We have blinked. We have baulked.

"We have bottled it completely. We have now undergone the humiliation of allowing the EU to decide the date on which we may make our own departure."

And he warned that the plan for indicative votes would allow "the Government of the country" to be handed to the "triumvirate" of senior backbenchers -  Nick Boles, Yvette Cooper and Oliver Letwin - who are pushing the proposal.

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