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Tory rebel withdraws letter of no confidence in Theresa May as fragile peace breaks out

3 min read

A Conservative MP has withdrawn his letter of no confidence in Theresa May as peace broke out in the party following days of bitter in-fighting.

Simon Clarke sent the note to Graham Brady, chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, in the wake of the Chequers agreement reached by the Cabinet nearly two weeks ago.

Under Conservative Party rules, 48 letters are needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in the leader.

But Mr Clarke announced at a meeting of the 1922 committee on Wednesday evening, which was attended by the Prime Minister, that he had changed his mind and withdrawn his note on Tuesday after the Conservatives "stared into the abyss" over Brexit.

Mr Clarke, the MP for Middlesborough South and East Cleveland, said: "I put a letter in last week in the aftermath of Chequers because I had real concerns about it and I continue to have concerns about it.

"My constituency voted very heavily for Brexit, it's the reason why I was returned, it's the reason why the Conservatives won Middlesborough South and East Cleveland.

"But I've been thinking as hard as everyone needs to about where the Conservative Party is going in the last few days and I've come to the conclusion the Prime Minister deserves the chance to deliver the deal which we all want to see."

Mrs May narrowling avoided a full-scale meltdown when the Government defeated an amendment to the Trade Bill which would have forced the UK to enter into a customs union with the EU by just six votes.

Government whips had warned Tory backbenchers that the Prime Minister could be ousted from power and the country plunged into another general election if the vote had been lost.

The chaotic scenes came amid continuing anger among Tory Brexiteers at the Chequers plan to maintain close economic links with the EU in the future.

Speaking outside the 30-minute 1922 Committee meeting - which was described as "a triumphant success" by one MP - Mr Clarke said: "I don't want to go into the summer feelling like a have over the last few days, which is that the party is at war with itself."

He added: "Chequers is not my preferred option, but I'm also clear that Conservative Party civil war is not where we want to be at the moment."

Mrs May told the meeting that the threat of a Jeremy Corbyn government was real and that it was time for the Tories to unite.

One senior Cabinet minister said: "People have come to their senses and woken up to the importance of unity."

Before going into the meeting, the Prime Minister took a thinly-veiled swipe at former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who had earlier attacked her Brexit strategy in a resignation statement to the Commons.

Mrs May said she had not seen the speech because she had been appearing before the cross-party Liaison Committee of senior MPs.

Asked if she would watch it later on catch-up, she replied: "I think I'll probably be doing my red box."

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