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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Theresa May must quit if Brexit deal is rejected by Parliament, says ex-Cabinet minister

3 min read

Theresa May will have to resign as Prime Minister if her Brexit plan is "torn up" by Parliament, a Tory former Cabinet minister has declared.

John Whittingdale - who is vice-chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers - said Mrs May would have "staked her credibility" on getting the deal done, and warned her against trying to stay on to restart talks with the EU.

The former Culture Secretary told the BBC's Westminster Hour: "I think if the Prime Minister's Brexit plan doesn't get through Parliament I think it's quite difficult to see how the Prime Minister can continue because she has staked her credibility.

"It's very hard for her to turn round and say ‘OK, well my plan’s been torn up by Parliament, I'll go away and think of another one."

The warning came as Mrs May was forced to shelve a planned Cabinet meeting to discuss a Brexit deal as talks with the EU dragged on.

Top ministers were told last week to "stand by your diaries" in anticipation of a deal being done - but a meeting pencilled in for today will now not take place.

It is even unclear whether Brexit will be on the agenda for Tuesday's regular Cabinet meeting in 10 Downing Street.

A source told The Independent: "The Cabinet will meet as normal on Tuesday, but I can’t say if it going to be a Brexit Cabinet or not, because the negotiations are ongoing."


Mrs May's hopes of securing an agreement by the end of the month were dealt a fresh blow this weekend as the EU side rejected plans for an "independent mechanism" to allow the UK to pull out of a temporary backstop customs tie-up with Brussels.

The proposals formed a key part of the Prime Minister's bid to reassure her party and the DUP that her efforts to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland after Brexit will not lock the UK into an indefinite arrangement with the EU.

On Sunday Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom warned that MPs would vote down any deal that left Britain "trapped in a customs arrangement".

Ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has meanwhile stepped up his attack on the Prime Minister's plans following the dramatic resignation of his Remain-backing brother Jo Johnson.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Johnson said Britain appeared to be "on the verge of total surrender" as he urged Cabinet ministers to rise up against the Northern Ireland backstop proposals.

"As my brother Joseph rightly said when he resigned last week, we are already looking at the biggest failure of UK statecraft since Suez," he added, referring to the disastrous 1956 invasion of Egypt that prompted the downfall of PM Anthony Eden.

"And it seems that the Prime Minister would like to go one better. She has recommended to the Cabinet not only that we agree to stay in the customs union under the so-called 'backstop' arrangement, but that we actually abdicate the power to leave that backstop."

Mrs May is also facing increasing anger from Remain-supporting MPs, with The Sun reporting that pro-EU MPs are now preparing letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister.

"There’s a lot of talking behind the scenes about how we reset," one told the paper.

"People are seriously mulling over whether to put letters in."

48 letters would need to be submitted to 1922 chair Graham Brady in order to trigger a vote of no confidence in the PM.

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