Theresa May clings on to power after meeting with Tory backbenchers - for now

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Theresa May is being pressured to come up with a resignation date (Getty)

Theresa May is to remain in office until at least June following her crunch meeting with backbench rebel Tory MPs.

Mrs May will set out a timetable for her departure after the vote, regardless of whether her Withdrawal Agreement Bill passes a second reading on June 3.

It follows the Prime Minister holding talks with members of the executive of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs on Thursday, amid pressure for her to make clear when she will leave Number 10.

The embattled Prime Minister has consistently said that she would only quit after her Brexit deal has successfully passed through parliament

But committee head Sir Graham Brady said that he will discuss Mrs May’s timetable for departure from early June - meaning a leadership bid may be likely in the summer.

Previously Mrs May said she would set out the timetable for her departure following one final attempt to get her Brexit deal passed by MPs, with the Committee members seemingly backing down on previous threats.

Mrs May was previously told she must give a firm resignation date in the showdown meeting with senior Tories - or be forced out of office.

Countdown to leaving the EU. See story POLITICS Brexit (PA)

She faced a potential change to Tory leadership rules which could see a vote of no confidence in her as early as June - six months earlier than current rules state.

Sir Graham said in a statement ‘The Prime Minister is determined to secure our departure from the European Union and is devoting her efforts to securing the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week commencing June 3 2019 and the passage of that Bill and the consequent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union by the summer.

‘We have agreed that she and I will meet following the second reading of the Bill to agree a timetable for the election of a new leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.’

The Prime Minister could be forced out of office if she fails to set out a plan for leaving Downing Street (Getty)

Euro elections pressure

Committee treasurer Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said: "It would be infinitely preferable if she set a date rather than us force her out.

"It's better that she does it than we have a vote of confidence.

"What I would like to see is her set out a timetable to trigger a leadership contest.”

The state of the parties in the run up to the EU elections (PA)

Eurosceptic Tory MP Andrew Bridgen added: "I would like to see the 22 give her a timetable to stand down.

"And, if she does not accept that timetable, tell her we will have another vote of confidence after the European elections.”

Prominent Brexiteer Mark Francois said that a predicted poor Tory showing in next week's European Parliament elections - which Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party are on course to win - would heap pressure on Mrs May to go.

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He told the Press Association: "As the polls increasingly suggest, we are going to have an extremely difficult night in the European elections.

"And, because they are announced on a council by council basis, every MP will be able to reverse engineer the result in their own constituency.

"At that point, I believe, my colleagues will finally wake up and smell the coffee if they have not, indeed, done so already.”

The Tories are facing an extremely difficult Euro election night after the Brexit Party stormed into the lead in the polls (Getty)

Brexit deal returns

The meeting with the Tory grandees came after Mrs May announced the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) will be brought to the Commons in early June.

The legislation writes the Brexit agreement into law and represents a fresh attempt to secure Parliament's support for a deal which has already been rejected three times by MPs, including the heaviest defeat ever suffered by a Government.

The Prime Minister said: "What this Bill does is delivers on Brexit.

"When MPs come to look at this Bill, when they come to vote on this legislation, I'm sure that they will be thinking of the duty that we have to ensure that we deliver on the vote of the British people.”

Mrs May has faced fierce criticism from Brexiteers and Eurosceptic MPs over her deal with the EU (Getty)

‘The game is up’

Mrs May's former joint chief of staff Nick Timothy wrote in the Daily Telegraph that it is "beyond time" for her "to accept that the game is up”.

In order to avoid a "national humiliation" and save the Conservative Party, Mr Timothy said the PM must "do her duty and stand aside" rather than clinging to power.

This sentiment was echoed by former Northern Ireland and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who wrote in the same paper: "Clearly, the Prime Minister wants her legacy to be the passing of the agreement.

"This deal will not get through and Cabinet must remind Mrs May of that.

"Unless she accepts defeat and resigns now, her enduring legacy will instead be to have destroyed the Conservative party and, in all likelihood, to have delivered the rise of a Corbyn-led government bent on crashing the economy and, in cahoots with the SNP, breaking up the UK.”

Emily Thornberry said Labour would oppose the Brexit deal in the next vote (Getty)

Deal or no deal

Amid speculation that Labour could abstain on the WAB vote, Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told ITV's Peston: "We are going to oppose it.”

And Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss said she would prefer a no-deal exit from the EU to revoking Brexit.

Ms Truss told BBC2's Newsnight: "If we face a straight choice between revoking Brexit and no dealing, we have to no deal.

"It's a matter of trust.

"The people expect us to have already left the EU.

"And if we haven't done that by October 31 I fear there will be real consequences and not just for our politics, but also, for for our economy."

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