May under pressure to quit as new deal backfires

LONDON • Theresa May is under pressure to ditch her Brexit deal and quit as prime minister (PM) after a final attempt to win over MPs backfired. The government published the draft law yesterday.

Nigel Evans — a member of the executive of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs — earlier said he would force a vote at their meeting yesterday in a bid to change rules so 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 that he also wants May to go.

The influential ConservativeHome website yesterday urged Tory members not to vote in today’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 UK 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.

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 PM 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 yesterday.

In the meantime, Labour accused May’s Conservatives of neglecting the British industry as they fight over Brexit, after the High Court forced British Steel Ltd — the UK’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 Labour — said the “Brexit farce and ongoing uncertainty” had added to British Steel’s problems as it battled high energy prices and cheap imports. — Bloomberg