Mrs May has been under intense pressure ever since the publication of the 585-page draft withdrawal agreement on Wednesday, with Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions minister Esther McVey submitting their resignations the next day. And speculation is mounting about her future as Prime Minister as the number of letters submitted by MPs to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady expressing no confidence in her leadership of the Conservative party rise towards the 48 needed to trigger a vote. Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mrs May said “as far as she knew” the threshold had not yet been reached.
But she added: “Of course it has been a tough week. These negotiations have been tough right from the very start.
“What I think is this is not about me – it’s about what’s in the national interest.
“These next seven days are going to be critical – they are about the future of this country.
“It’s about people’s jobs, it’s about their livelihoods, it’s about the future for their children and grandchildren.
“Change of leadership is not going to make the negotiations any easier and it’s not going to change the Parliamentary arithmetic.
“What it will do is bring in a degree of uncertainty.
“What it will do is it will risk a delay in negotiations, and that’s a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated.
“Obviously people have been making views known and that’s understandable but I ask all my colleagues to think about delivering Brexit for the British people.”
Mrs May also had a pointed message to some of the off-the-record briefings given by those plotting against her in recent weeks, with talk of “assassination” and of her being “in the killing zone”.
She explained: “I think all of us in politics have a responsibility to make sure that when we talk about things, we do so responsibly and we think about the sort of terminology and the language that we are using.
“But it does not distract me from the main task at hand – politics is a tough business.
Mrs May was guarded when pressed about claims by ministers Angela Leadsom, Michael Gove and Penny Mordant that “more needs to be done” to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, particularly in relation to the question of the Irish border and the contentious backstop plan.
Insisting her proposals delivered a Brexit which restored British control over its money, laws and borders, she insisted: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
“The backstop is an insurance policy. It says that if we come to a point in time where future relationship that we are negotiating can’t be fully in place by December 2020, and we fully intend that it can be, we need to make sure that the people of Northern Ireland still have the reassurance of no hard border between them and Ireland.”
Mrs May said she would be travelling to Brussels this week in advance of the crunch summit of EU leaders next weekend to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
She added: “If anybody’s in any doubt, we are going to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019.
“This isn’t about party politics, this is about what matters for this country, it’s about what is in the national interest.”