Theresa May tells Tory MPs to back backbench bid to scrap Irish backstop from Brexit deal
Theresa May has ordered Tory MPs to back moves to dump the Irish backstop from the Brexit deal she spent more than two years negotiating.
The Prime Minister told a meeting of her parliamentary colleagues that they should support an amendment tabled by Graham Brady calling for the controversial measure, which is aimed at maintaining an open border in Ireland, to be replaced by "alternative arrangements".
But the move put her on a collision course with the hardine European Research Group of Brexiteers, which said the Brady amendment was too vague and so they could not back it.
The clash tees up a knife-edge vote in the Commons on Tuesday evening, with Mrs May's credibility once again on the line.
She is eager for the Brady amendment to pass, thereby allowing her to go back to Brussels and tell EU leaders that the only way of avoiding a no-deal Brexit is for them to offer major concessions on the backstop.
At a packed meeting of Tory MPs in Parliament's Boothroyd Room on Monday evening, the Prime Minister called on her party to finally unite over Brexit to strengthen her hand in future negotiations.
She said that if her colleagues wanted the EU to take notice of their concerns "you have to do more than talk about it, you have to vote for it".
Mrs May also drew applause from some MPs by slapping down Boris Johnson after he asked her what the Brady amendment would actually achieve, telling him: "We won't know unless you support us, Boris."
Following an earlier meeting of the ERG, which took place just yards away and broke up minutes before Mrs May arrived to address her MPs, leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg confirmed they would not support the Brady amendment, and called on the Government to bring forward changes of their own.
He said: "There is no mood in the ERG to support it. It's a triumph of hope over experience.
"If the Government comes forward with an amendment saying it wants to substantially change the backstop that would be a different kettle of fish."
Meanwhile, Mrs May also told her MPs that the next meaningful vote on her Brexit deal will take place on 13 February, barely six weeks before the UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March.