Wednesday 22 May 2019 7:59 pm

Andrea Leadsom quits Cabinet with stinging attack on Theresa May’s Brexit plan

Theresa May looks to be entering her final days as Prime Minister after Andrea Leadsom quit the Cabinet with a stinging attack on her Brexit plan.

Leadsom warned the PM’s new plan for Brexit would not deliver a “truly sovereign” UK, and a pledge to offer MPs a vote on another EU referendum would be "dangerously divisive."

She also claimed Cabinet discipline had completely broken down, and May’s latest plan had not been “properly scrutinised or approved” by her top ministers.

The letter came just hours before Leadsom, in her role as Leader of the Commons, was due to officially announce the timings by which the controversial Withdrawal Act Bill would be put before MPs.

In her letter, released just hours before the country goes to the polls in Thursday's European elections, Leadsom said she did not believe May’s new plan “will deliver on the referendum result”.

She added: “I considered carefully the timing of this decision, but I cannot fulfil my duty as Leader of the House tomorrow to announce a Bill with new elements that I fundamentally oppose.”

Leadsom was not the only Cabinet minister to have deep reservations over May’s plan to put the wheels in motion on a vote on another referendum.

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, home secretary Sajid Javid and Scotland secretary David Mundell all requested meetings with May on Wednesday to protest against her plan.


The PM refused to meet them, leading to fevered speculation a slew of cabinet resignations were about to take place.

The three are among a host of ministers who believe May’s commitment to potentially legislate for another public vote on Brexit goes well beyond what was agreed at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

Yet despite a torrent of protest from her own MPs on Wednesday May refused to quit, prompting former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith to quip: “The sofa is up against the door, she’s not leaving.”

Her refusal to budge is likely to be little more than a stay of execution, as on Friday she is due to meet Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 committee.

May had previously agreed to meet Brady after the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill scheduled for the week commencing 3 June to set out a timetable for her departure.

However, such is the backlash against her latest Brexit plan, the meeting has been brought forward.

Speaking on Wednesday, Brady said: “Following that meeting I will be consulting with the 1922 executive. I have nothing further that I can say at the moment."

Under current party rules, May cannot be challenged for the leadership until December – but the 1922 executive committee has the power to change the rule.

May’s latest attempt to get her withdrawal agreement through parliament has infuriated MPs in her own party as it contains a pledge to legislate for another Brexit referendum should the Commons vote for one.

That move incensed Scottish Tory MPs in particular, who believe it adds grist to the mill of the Scottish National Party’s campaign for another independence vote.

“We were clinging onto our seat in Scotland but she's definitely cost us it now I think,” said one Scottish Tory.

Treasury Select Committee chair Nicky Morgan told May to “reflect very seriously” about bringing the seemingly-doomed deal back to parliament for a fourth time, as she urged for her to make “more compromise”.

Previously loyal Tory MPs Vicky Ford and Tom Tugendhat called for May to resign, with Tugendhat saying: “She must announce her resignation after Thursday’s European elections.”

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