In phone calls with Downing Street, leading Conservative MPs told the Prime Minister she could suffer another three-figure loss if she went ahead with her plan. “Technical” talks took place in Brussels over the weekend in a last-ditch attempt to reach favourable terms on concessions to the Irish backstop. Theresa May spoke to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday night, although a Commons source warned negotiations remained “deadlocked”.
But with time running out and no immediate breakthrough in sight, Tory MPs are urging the Prime Minister to come up with a Plan B if a deal can’t be reached.
This would see the government laying down a conditional motion setting out terms that might be acceptable to Parliament to resolve the Irish backstop issue.
A senior party source told The Times: “As it stands, her deal is going to be defeated.
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“It has been made clear to Downing Street that it would be eminently sensible to avoid that by proposing a motion that the party can support.
“Whether they listen or not is another matter.”
Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), told the newspaper it “would not be a foolish way to proceed”.
He added: “I think a meaningful vote with an addendum saying this House will support a deal if such and such is done might be a way of uniting the party or limiting the scale of the defeat.”
Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell also said: “Anything that avoids what looks like a massive defeat on Tuesday is worth considering.”
Downing Street has insisted Mrs May is ready to travel to Brussels to agree a revised Brexit deal with Mr Juncker if sufficient concessions could be agreed.
At the end of last month, Mrs May vowed to hold another meaningful vote by tomorrow – just 17 days before the proposed Brexit date of March 29.
If her deal is rejected in Parliament again, MPs will be given the chance to vote on a possible no-deal on Wednesday and if that is rejected, a separate vote will take place on Thursday to decide if Brexit should be delayed and Article 50 extended.
The latest development comes after two former Cabinet ministers warned if Mrs May is forced to ask for an extension to Brexit, which she has always insisted she opposes, her position as Prime Minister would become untenable.
Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan warned if Mrs May’s strategy is “dismantled” by Parliament, “it would be very difficult for the Prime Minister to stay in office for very much longer”.
Dominic Raab, who quit as Brexit Secretary in November in opposition to Mrs May’s Brexit deal with the EU, said: “The Government has found itself in a precarious situation and I think if the government extends Article 50 or tries to reverse effectively the Brexit promises that we’ve made, I think that situation will get even trickier.”
A number of other MPs have said if Mrs May resigns as soon as her deal is passed, that could persuade some Tories to back it.
One told The Times: “The danger is if she gets the deal through Remain supporters will try and keep her in office.
“If she committed to going straight away we’d know for certain we’d have someone else at the helm at the start of the trade talks.”
Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson used his column in The Daily Telegraph to urge MPs to oppose the deal and “do nothing further to weaken the UK position”.
The Prime Minister’s allies in the Government have spent the weekend desperately trying to rally support for her Brexit deal.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned they risked losing Brexit altogether unless they all got behind Mrs May and supported her deal.
He said there was now “wind in the sails” of the opponents of Brexit and that it would be “devastating” for the Conservatives if they failed to deliver on their commitment to take Britain out of the EU.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove told the Daily Mail: “Everyone who believes in democracy should support it.”