Theresa May tells Tory MPs she will quit as PM if her Brexit deal is passed
Theresa May dramatically told Tory MPs tonight she will quit if her Brexit deal is passed by the Commons.
The Prime Minister said she would hand over to someone else as Britain embarks on the second stage of negotiations with the EU.
She made the bombshell announcement at a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers in a desperate last-ditch bid to get her controversial deal over the line.
Mrs May told her troops: "I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and I won’t stand in the way of that."
Many Tory MPs who have opposed the deal up until now said they will now vote for it on the back of her announcement.
A number are said to have made clear to Downing Street that their price for backing her deal was a commitment that the future trade relationship with the EU will be negotiated by a new PM.
In an emotional address, the Tory leader said her party and the country had been tested throught the Brexit process and "we’re almost ready to start a new chapter and build that brighter future".
But she added: "Before we can do that, we have to finish the job in hand.
"As I say, I don’t tour the bars and engage in the gossip – but I do make time to speak to colleagues, and I have a great team in the Whips' Office. I also have two excellent PPSs.
“And I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and I won’t stand in the way of that.
“I know some people are worried that if you vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush on into phase two without the debate we need to have. I won’t – I hear what you are saying."
She added: “But we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit... I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.
“I ask everyone in this room to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty – to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit.”
Backbencher Simon Clarke said Mrs May told her troops she wanted an "orderly" handover - to avoid the chance of a Labour government amid turmoil in the Tory party.
“She was passionate about getting the deal through, passionate about keeping the party together and passionate about keeping Jeremy Corbyn out of Number 10,” he told journalists.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “There is never any joy or happiness in somebody’s political career doming to an end. There is always a poignancy about that and I think the Prime Minister did do it in an amazingly dignified way.”
But he said the announcement by the PM would not sway him to back the deal - noting that he would hold out for the green light from the DUP.
“I wasn’t fretting about the Prime Minister’s position but I know that other people are,” he explained.
And her close ally Damian Green - who previously served as first secretary of state under Mrs May - said she made a "very powerful" appeal to MPs to back her deal.