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Theresa May holds crisis talks amid reports she's facing a 'cabinet coup'

May has said a third vote on her Brexit deal may not happen next week.

Updated Mar 24th 2019, 2:16 PM

Brexit British Prime Minister Theresa May Source: PA Wire/PA Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May is holding crisis talks today at Chequers with Conservative colleagues amid reports from the British press that she is facing a “cabinet coup”, as ministers move to force her to resign. 

“The prime minister is speaking to her colleagues this weekend,” a Downing Street spokesperson said, declining to confirm reports she would hold an afternoon summit with leading Brexiteer MPs outside government. 

The talks comes as two newspapers have reported that a number of ministers have said they could back May’s Brexit deal if the PM is not in charge for the next round of EU negotiations. 

Chancellor Philip Hammond told Sky News this morning, however, that the idea of ousting May is “self-indulgent” and that parliament “has to come together” to make a decision on Brexit. 

The Sunday Times has reported that May is “at the mercy of a full-blown cabinet coup”, with plans afoot for her de facto deputy David Lidington to take over in a caretaker capacity.

The Times has said that it had spoken to 11 senior ministers who “confirmed that they wanted the Prime Minister to make way for someone else” and planned to confront May at a cabinet meeting tomorrow. 

The Mail on Sunday has reported that May could be ousted “within days” and that Environment Secretary Michael Gove – a prominent Brexiteer – could take over as interim leader.  

‘Put it to the people’

Meanwhile, May has said a third vote on her Brexit deal may not happen next week if there is insufficient support to approve it. 

It was agreed on Thursday that date the UK would leave the EU would be delayed until the 22 May if the deal was passed.

However, if the deal is rejected, the date would be delayed by two weeks until 12 April.

In a letter to MPs on Friday evening, May said she would only bring her withdrawal agreement before the House of Commons if there was sufficient support for it. 

May laid out four “clear choices” facing Parliament:

  • Revoke Article 50 – essentially cancelling Brexit – which May said “would betray the result of the referendum.”
  • Leave with no deal on 12 April. 
  • Request another extension before 12 April which would mean Britain taking part in European elections. 
  • Approve May’s deal next week. Bear in mind House Speaker John Bercow has said he won’t allow it to be put to a vote unless substantial changes are made to it. 

“If it appears that there is sufficient support and the speaker permits it, we can bring the deal back next week and if it is approved we can leave on May 22,” May wrote to MPs. 

But she said if there was not sufficient support or the house rejected it, Britain could ask for another extension and take part in the European Parliament elections, adding: “I strongly believe that… would be wrong”.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Friday at the close of the EU summit, EU Council President Donald Tusk said: “Until April 12, anything is possible.

The latest political maneuvers follow yesterday’s ‘Put It To The People’ march which saw a million people protest in London demanding a second referendum. 

May has repeatedly ruled out holding another referendum on the issue, claiming it would be divisive and renege on promises to honour the 2016 result. 

Meanwhile, more than four million people have signed an online petition calling for the British government to cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50. 

The petition, which was launched on Friday, says a “second Brexit referendum may not happen – so vote now”. 

With reporting from © AFP 2019 

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