May survives meeting with Tories on her Brexit plan

By BLOOMBERG

LONDON • Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May survived a meeting with Conservative Party lawmakers on Wednesday evening, as lawmakers largely decided to express public loyalty instead of venting private frustrations.

May told the closed-door meeting of the 1922 Committee of rank-and file MPs to hold their nerve as she pursues a deal, according to one lawmaker who attended, Michael Fabricant.

Although there were critical questions, by and large the meeting chose to rally round the PM, according to several people present.

With her Cabinet deeply divided about her European Union (EU) negotiating strategy and the number of Tories committed to vote against her plan growing by the day, there had been talk that a challenge to her leadership might come this week.

But May’s opponents say her survival depends on keeping the support of the bulk of Tories who don’t care passionately about Brexit — “The Blob”, as one lawmaker calls them. On Wednesday evening, The Blob stayed loyal.

“The mood of the meeting was get behind her and let’s support her to negotiate,” George Freeman, who once headed May’s policy board but has been critical of her plans since returning to the backbenches, said in an interview. Another lawmaker, who asked not to be named, said that unity had broken out. But May’s problems remain formidable.

The clock is ticking down on negotiations, and it remains hard to see what sort of Brexit deal would win the approval of both the EU and her own party.