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Theresa May tells MPs she 'won't stand in way' of next leader, but DUP stands firm

After her statement, Boris Johnson said that he would support May’s deal. The DUP still won’t, though.

Image: Stefan Rousseau

Updated Mar 27th 2019, 8:53 PM

THERESA MAY HAS told Tory MPs that she would not “stand in the way” of being replaced as leader in the next stage of Brexit negotiations.

In the wake of the announcement, British media reported that members of the pro-Brexit ERG group said that they would back May’s deal – including Boris Johnson, who’s among those tipped as the next Tory leader.

It wasn’t enough for the DUP, however, who said that the failure to renegotiate the backstop means that they will “not risk compromising the Union”. 

May held a meeting with Conservative Party’s backbenchers, known as the 1922 Committee hours before MPs were due to vote on a series of Brexit options.

“I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that,” she said.

The current deal that May has negotiated only handles the conditions upon which the UK leaves the European Union; the next phase of Brexit negotiations is about the future relationship, and covers issues like trade.

I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.
I know some people are worried that if you vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush on into phase two without the debate we need to have. I won’t – I hear what you are saying.

“I ask everyone in this room to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty – to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit,” according to wording released by 10 Downing Street.

The deal has been twice-defeated before in the House of Commons, by a majority of 230 votes in January, and a majority of 149 votes in February. The third ‘Meaningful Vote’ is rumoured to take place on Friday; but House Speaker John Bercow has said it’s not certain that the deal would be allowed to be put forward for a vote.

Reaction

In an ERG meeting following the statement, Johnson is to have said that he would support May’s deal, adding that there was a fear Brexit might not happen at all otherwise.

The DUP were due to release a statement at 6pm announcing their decision not to back May’s deal, but it came instead 3 hours later.

A statement from the party said that it “poses an unacceptable threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom” and “create an internal trade border within the UK”.

Speaking on Sky News, party leader Arlene Foster said that she didn’t feel betrayed by her ERG colleagues who had switched sides to support May’s deal following her statement today. Their priority was Brexit, while the DUP’s is the Union, she said.

Conservative MP James Cartlidge, who was at the closed-door meeting, told reporters as he walked out that May had said she would step down before the “next phase” of Brexit negotiations.

Another MP, Pauline Latham, told reporters that May had said she would resign “after the meaningful vote was through”, meaning the vote on her EU divorce deal.

“We have to pass it or all bets are off,” Latham said.

- with reporting from AFP 

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