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Minister Quits as May Resists Pressure to Go: Brexit Update

Tim Ross, Kitty Donaldson, Alex Morales and Thomas Penny
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Minister Quits as May Resists Pressure to Go: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May is under pressure to ditch her Brexit deal and quit as prime minister. One minister has resigned, and others are plotting. But May continues to fight on, saying it’s her duty to put her Brexit deal to another vote.

Pro-Brexit ministers have been meeting in private to plot their response to May’s planThree ministers have asked to meet May to discuss their concerns; at least one minister hasn’t been granted a hearingPound falls for a record 13th day as investors brace for a hardliner to succeed May

Leadsom Resigns (7:40 p.m.)

Andrea Leadsom, a high-profile Brexiteer in May’s Cabinet, resigned from the government in protest at the prime minister’s latest Brexit plan.

Leadsom said in a letter posted on Twitter that she couldn’t continue to serve as May’s approach will not "deliver on the referendum result" of 2016.

She’s a potential leadership candidate and the question now is whether other ministers will follow her out the door.

Brady Confirms Friday Meeting With May (7 p.m.)

Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of rank-and-file Conservative MPs, confirmed he will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, adding that he will follow that with a meeting of his committee’s executive.

Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Brady declined to comment on the question of changing party rules to allow an earlier leadership challenge against May.

Current rules don’t allow Tory lawmakers to hold another vote of “confidence” in May until a year after she survived the last one in December. Two people familiar with the situation said Brady’s committee decided not to change those rules on Wednesday (see 6:25 p.m.)

May to Meet Brady on Friday (6:25 p.m.)

Theresa May will meet Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 committee of rank-and-file Conservative MPs on Friday, two people familiar with the matter said following the meeting. The committee decided not to change rules to make it easier to oust May.

Chief Whip Meets Rank-and-File MPs (5:45 p.m.)

Chief whip Julian Smith met rank-and-file MPs for just two minutes in Parliament today. He didn’t speak to reporters on his way out.

The MPs have been discussing whether to change the party’s leadership rules to make it easier to oust May.

May’s Whip to Meet Rank-and-File MPs (5:10 p.m.)

May’s chief whip will meet the executive committee that represents rank-and-file Conservative MPs at 5:30 p.m, according to people familiar with the situation.

The executive of the so-called 1922 committee met earlier to discuss whether to change the party’s leadership rules to make it easier to oust May. No decision has been announced.

The full committee will then meet at 6 p.m.

Home Secretary Javid Asks to See PM (4:30 p.m.)

Pro-Brexit Home Secretary Sajid Javid has asked for a meeting with May to discuss Brexit because he’s disappointed by her latest plan, according to a person familiar with the situation.

He’s particularly worried about the offer for a vote on a second referendum, the person said.

Pro-Brexit Minister Considers Quitting (4 p.m.)

At least one pro-Brexit minister is considering quitting May’s government, as members of the Cabinet hold private meetings to plot a way to stop the prime minister’s Brexit plan, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The ministers object to May’s plan to offer Parliament votes on a second referendum and a close customs arrangement, and are weighing up what to do, the person said.

Tory MPs to Discuss Changing Leadership Rules (3:40 p.m.)

At its meeting on Wednesday, the influential 1922 committee of Conservative backbench members of Parliament will discuss whether to change the party’s rules to allow an earlier leadership challenge to May, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Current rules don’t allow Tory lawmakers to hold another vote of “confidence” in May until a year after she survived the last one in December.

May Keeps Fighting (1:55 p.m.)

May will put her new Brexit plan to a vote in the first week of June, and will continue to speak to MPs on all sides to try to get them on board.

Asked whether she would resign today, her spokesman said she was "focused on the job in hand." She’s confident she has the support of her Cabinet and is determined to deliver Brexit. Still, the government realizes it has "work to do" to get backing for the bill.

May’s argument is that MPs should vote for the bill in the first round and then it can be amended -- as with all legislation. If they don’t like the final draft they can reject it at a later stage.

She’s also saying that if MPs throw this bill out then they are opening the door to a binary choice of no-deal or no Brexit.

Lib Dem Farron Offers Olive Branch to May (1:35 p.m.)

Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron offered to vote for May’s deal if she will include a second referendum in the legislation from the start.

“If she will agree to put her deal to the British people in a confirmatory vote I will join her in the lobbies,’’ Farron said. “Will she help me to help her?”

May didn’t directly answer the question but repeated her line that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is the best way to ensure that the U.K. leaves with a deal.

Earlier, Labour lawmaker Liz Kendall also said a second referendum should be included in the legislation and appealed to Tories opposed to a no-deal split to back another plebiscite to stop May’s successor choosing to crash out without an agreement.

Corbyn Calls for Election (1:25 p.m.)

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn repeated his call for a general election and said it had been clear during talks with May that she had no way of ensuring her successor as prime minister would honor the offers that she made.

“Our country needs leadership to bring us together. However, this prime minister is not the person to do that. Throughout the last three years she’s made no attempt to unite the country,’’ he said. “She’s been focused only on keeping her divided party together – and it hasn’t worked. Her time has now run out.’’

Read More: The Rivals Lining Up to Replace May

May Says it’s Her Duty To Put Deal to Vote (1:15 p.m.)

Acknowledging that her days as prime minister are numbered, May said she has a “duty” to ask lawmakers to try to pass the agreement she negotiated with the EU.

“While I’m here I have a duty to be clear with the house about the facts. If we’re going to deliver Brexit in this Parliament we’re going to have to pass a Withdrawal Agreement Bill and we’re not going to be able to without holding votes on those issues that have divided us the most,’’ she said.

“I will put those decisions to this house because that’s my duty and it’s the only way we can deliver Brexit.”

She said the bill would go to a vote after recess -- the first week of June as planned.

MPs Walk Out as May Speaks (1.07 p.m.)

The prime minister made a key statement on her final Brexit offer to Parliament.

It’s the biggest issue facing the country but instead of crowding into the Commons to hear what she said, Tory MPs left the chamber.

There were far fewer Conservatives there when May started than attending during PMQs. Those MPs who did stay in the room were chatting to each other as May spoke rather than listening to what she said.

When she finished her prepared statement, hardly anyone cheered.

Brexit Bill to Be Published on Friday (1:06 p.m.)

May says her Brexit bill will be published on Friday. Despite the pressure, she’s still fighting.

She appealed for compromise on all sides to find a way through the Brexit impasse and, unusually for a Conservative prime minister, included Trade Unions in her list of those she had listened to as she sought to win the support of Labour MPs.

“Despite our disagreements and divisions we all believe in democracy, we want to make good on the promise we made to the British people,’’ May said. “The only way forward is leaving with a deal but it’s clear that won’t happen without compromises on all sides.”

“We need to see Brexit through.”

Not What We Were Hoping For (1 p.m.)

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright told BBC radio that the response to May’s speech was not “what we might have hoped for” and refused to commit to a vote on the deal taking place in the week of June 3.

“ I can’t give a definitive answer as to when this will happen,’’ Wright told BBC 5 Live. “ I can’t pretend that the reactions this morning are what we might have hoped for. That’s absolutely true.’’

“ The alternative is not making the effort, and if we are going to deliver Brexit, we’re going to have to keep trying,’’ Wright said. “ But if we do not do it, then we will end up at the end of October facing a stark choice between no deal and no Brexit at all.’’

Junior Ministers To Say They Can’t Back Deal: Telegraph (1 p.m.)

A group of junior ministers is set to see May this afternoon, when they will tell her they can’t back her bill and she should pull it, the Telegraph’s Steven Swinford reports.

Tory Lee Calls For Second Referendum (12:55 p.m.)

Phillip Lee, a Tory Remainer became the first backbencher to respond positively to May’s speech yesterday and asked the prime minister to commit to reaching out for a vote on a second referendum. MPs should be able to choose between a no-deal split and a second plebiscite, he said.

Lee said that if 6 million people vote for the Brexit party – and its policy of a No-Deal divorce - in Thursday’s EU Parliament elections it leaves a question over the views of the other 10 million people who voted to Leave in the 2016 referendum.

May said her views haven’t changed and she continues to oppose another referendum in spite of yesterday’s offer. “I believe this house should deliver on the result of the first,’’ she told MPs.

Leadsom Shows Up (12:40 p.m.)

Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom, a Brexiteer in the Cabinet, arrived more than half an hour after the session started.

She had to squeeze into her seat next to Chief Whip Julian Smith, who began holding what looked like a serious conversation with her on the front bench. May gave a quick glance toward Leadsom and carried on.

Brexiteer Ministers Shun PMQs (12:30 p.m.)

May can usually count on a number of senior Brexit supporters in her Cabinet to show up to support her in Prime Minister’s Questions. Right now, only newly promoted Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt is on the government front bench.

Other Cabinet Brexiteers, including Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove and Liam Fox are nowhere to be seen.

It’s not the backing May will have wanted less than 24 hours since she made her bold new Brexit offer.

Wednesday afternoon’s regular session of prime minister’s questions is usually the highlight of Parliament’s week. It’s often hard for MPs to find a seat. Today, there are a lot of free spaces on the Tory party’s green benches behind May. That’s another clear sign she’s losing support.

Disgruntled Cabinet Ministers Meet, BBC Says (11:50 a.m.)

A group of cabinet ministers who have had concerns over May’s handling of Brexit are meeting in Westminster, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reported.

The group of Brexiteers, known as the Pizza Club, included Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom when it started meeting last year.

Tories, Brexit Accused Over British Steel Liquidation (11 a.m.)

Labour accused Theresa May’s Conservatives of neglecting British industry as they fight over Brexit, after the High Court force British Steel -- the U.K.’s second largest steelmaker -- into compulsory liquidation.

“The Tories’ legacy will once again be industrial decline whilst they endlessly squabble over the European Union,’’ Labour’s business spokeswoman, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said in a statement. “The government must act quickly to save this strategically important industry and the livelihoods and communities of those who work in it, by bringing British Steel into public ownership.’’

The Unite trade union, which represents many of British Steel’s workers and bankrolls the Labour Party, said the “Brexit farce and ongoing uncertainty’’ had added to British Steel’s problems as it battled high energy prices and cheap imports.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said he was constrained by law over what he could do to help the company. “I have been advised that it would be unlawful to provide a guarantee or loan on the terms of any proposals that the company or any other party has made.”

Move to Change Tory Rules to Force May Out (10:30 a.m.)

Nigel Evans, a member of the executive of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, said he will force a vote at their meeting Wednesday in a bid to change rules so Theresa May can be forced out of office, the Times reported.

Current rules don’t allow Tory lawmakers to hold another vote of “confidence” in May until a year after the last one -- in December.

Tin Loughton, another Tory MP, posted a photograph of a letter to committee Chairman Graham Brady on Twitter, indicating he also wants May to go.

ConservativeHome Urges Tories Not to Vote (9:40 a.m.)

The influential ConservativeHome website has urged Tory members not to vote in Thursday’s European Parliament elections if May “isn’t on the way out by the end of today.”

In an opinion article, editor Paul Goodman said the fact that the U.K. is even having to take part in the vote is a “raising of two fingers to the referendum result.”

The website calls for May’s departure to be accelerated, given that her deal now looks set to face a bigger defeat than it did at the end of March.

Gove Refuses to Confirm Bill Will Go to Vote (Earlier)

Environment Secretary Michael Gove refused to confirm the government will definitely put its Withdrawal Agreement Bill to a vote in the House of Commons, calling on lawmakers to “reflect” on the draft law over the coming days.

“I think it’s important for all of us to just take a step back and consider what the options are,” Gove told BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday. He was asked repeatedly whether the vote would go ahead the week of June 3.

Gove was also asked about calls on May to resign immediately after the results of European Parliament elections are known on Monday. The minister said May has his full support, and predicted she’d still be prime minister on Tuesday.

But as attention turns to the Tory leadership, Gove praised Boris Johnson, the front-runner to replace May, describing him as having “flair” and having served as foreign secretary with “distinction.” It’s quite the U-turn for Gove, who quit Johnson’s campaign in 2016 to stand as a rival.

Starmer Urges May to Cancel Vote on Brexit Bill (Earlier)

After opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn described May’s new Brexit offer as a “rehash,” Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer called the package “too weak” and heading for a “heavy loss” when it’s put to vote in Parliament.

“In reality, the prime minister ought to now admit defeat and I think she would do well to just pull the vote and pause, because this is going nowhere,” Starmer told BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday.

Earlier:

What Brexit? England’s Top Soccer Teams Score With Foreign LaborTory Grandee Patten Calls Johnson ‘Mendacious’ and ‘Incompetent’Brexit Is Delayed and the Drama Is Just Starting: QuickTake

--With assistance from Jessica Shankleman.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Ross in London at tross54@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Emma Ross-Thomas at erossthomas@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs

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