Theresa May warns MPs they have until Tuesday evening to back her deal or face lengthy Brexit delay
MPs have until just Tuesday night to get behind Theresa May’s deal or risk a long delay, Downing Street has warned.
Speculation is rife in Westminster that Mrs May - whose EU agreement was roundly rejected for a second time last week - could call a fresh vote this week ahead of a crunch Brussels summit on Thursday.
The Prime Minister is currently seeking to persuade the DUP to drop their longstanding objections to her deal, a move which could prompt a chunk of Tory Brexiteers to come onside.
But Mrs May's official spokesperson on Monday made clear that no vote will take place until ministers are confident of victory - and warned MPs that unless a new vote is tabled by Tuesday night, the Prime Minister will have to head to Brussels to press for a long Brexit delay.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: "There were two Secretaries of State who were giving media interviews yesterday in which they both said that before any further vote was to take place we would want to believe we had a realistic prospect of being successful in that vote...
"If we are able to pass a meaningful vote by Wednesday then the PM will be able to ask for a short, technical extension and we can get on with delivering what the British people voted for.
“Alternatively if we are unable to win a meaningful vote this week then the Prime Minister will have to seek a longer extension, which would involve taking part in the European parliamentary elections."
They added: "If there is going to be a vote on Wednesday, the deadline for tabling that motion would be Tuesday evening."
ROBBINS TO 'GO AS SOON AS THE DEAL IS THROUGH'
The comments came as Downing Street pushed back at a report Mrs May could sack her chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins in a last-ditch bid to get Brexiteers behind her deal.
The Prime Minister has been holding phone conversations with Tory rebels in an effort to get them onside, and the Evening Standard reported that Number 10 had raised the prospect of Mrs May's top civil service negotiator - a frequent target of attacks by Eurosceptics - being removed from post to try and assuage Brexiteers.
The paper reported that one MP was told that Mrs May would “update her negotiating team” before the next stage of Brexit talks, while another was told that Mr Robbins would “go as soon as the deal is through”.
But, asked whether Mr Robbins would be travelling to Brussels with Mrs May this week, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: "I would never comment on that sort of story, but I would imagine yes."
Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said on Monday that he was “waiting to see what the DUP will do” before deciding whether or not to vote for Mrs May’s deal.
The longstanding critic of the Prime Minister’s agreement said: “The question people like me will ultimately have to answer is can we get to no deal instead…
“No deal is better than a bad deal but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union in the hierarchy of deals.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meanwhile insisted there were "cautious signs of encouragement" that MPs could still be convinced to get behind the Prime Minister.
“There is a lot more work to do and I think the risk of no-deal, at least as far as the UK Parliament's concerned has receded somewhat,” he said.
“But the risk of Brexit paralysis has not and that is not what people at home want, they want this deal to be sorted they want us to get on and leave the EU in accordance with the referendum result. And that’s why we’ll be redoubling our efforts this week.”