‘It’s nonsense': Tory Brexiteer dismisses rumours Theresa May will be ousted as Prime Minister

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Brexiteer Theresa Villiers said it was ‘nonsense’ to suggest that there are plans to oust Theresa May (Rex)

A Tory Brexit supporter has dismissed claims that there is a plot to remove Theresa May as Prime Minister, describing the suggestions as ‘nonsense’.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers was responding to rumours that the European Research Group (ERG) planned to oust Mrs May over her handling of Brexit.

When questioned about the rumoured plot, Ms Villiers told BBC’s Westminster Hour: ‘If it was up to me I would definitely rule it out.

‘I’ve never heard any discussion of that sort between the ERG. I think it’s nonsense.’

The Tory Brexiteer was speaking after former minister and ex-Conservative Party co-chairman Grant Shapps said it was ‘conceivable’ that the Prime Minister would lead the Tories into the next general election.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘I don’t think many people now are saying she’s going to leave in March, because she’s got then the negotiation period until the end of 2020, possibly 2021, we learned this week.

‘I think it’s perfectly conceivable now… that she leads us into the next election and I think potentially even wins that election.

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‘So I think it is possible, but we do need to have more decisions made, less waiting around for things, get things out in front of Parliament, not impossible, maybe 30% or 40%.’

However, Mr Shapps cautioned Mrs May against drift on Brexit decision-making.

He added: ‘When Theresa May takes a decision people actually go, ‘ah, OK, well, I may not agree with all of that but, you know what, the decision’s been made, I’m prepared to follow’.

Former Tory party chairman Grant Shapps thinks the Prime Minister will lead the party into the next election (Rex)

‘I think the problem comes when things are allowed to float, drift and decisions aren’t made and that’s when you tend to get these kind of heated-up moments.’

Mrs May is attempting to appeal for a show of unity from her warring MPs as she seeks to avoid a series of damaging Commons defeats on the Government’s centrepiece Brexit legislation.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday with ministers seeking to overturn a raft of amendments by the House of Lords intended to keep Britain close to the EU after Brexit.

However, they face a revolt by pro-EU Tory MPs determined to retain as many of the changes as possible in the legislation.

Mrs May is attempting to appeal for Tory unity on Brexit (Rex)

In what is likely to be a highly-charged appearance before the backbench 1922 Committee on Monday, the Prime Minister will remind her MPs they have a duty to deliver on the referendum vote to leave the EU.

She will make the point that while the bill itself may be a largely technical measure, the way that they vote in the division lobbies on Tuesday and Wednesday will send an important signal to the country.

She is expected to say: ‘The purpose of the EU Withdrawal Bill is simple – it is putting EU legislation into law to ensure a smooth and orderly transition as we leave,” she is expected to tell them.

‘But the message we send to the country through our votes this week is important. We must be clear that we are united as a party in our determination to deliver on the decision made by the British people.

All the key events in the lead-up to Brexit (PA)

‘They want us to deliver on Brexit and build a brighter future for Britain as we take back control of our money, our laws and our borders.’

Despite depending on the votes of the 10 DUP MPs for her precarious Commons majority, there were signs of cautious optimism among ministers that they would get the numbers to see off the revolt.

Some pro-EU Tories were reported to be backing away amid fears Mrs May could be fatally damaged by defeat, opening the way for a hardline Brexiteer to take over at the top of the party.