LONDON — Theresa May faces a Commons defeat on Thursday if Eurosceptic MPs carry out their latest threat against the prime minister to thwart her Brexit plans.
MPs will vote this afternoon on what was supposed to be a straightforward motion endorsing the prime minister’s Brexit strategy, which won a majority in the Commons in January.
However, the European Research Group of Brexit-supporting Tory MPs is unhappy with the wording of the motion, which states that parliament “reiterates its support for the approach to leaving the EU expressed by this House on 29 January.”
The problem is that MPs voted that day, not only for a motion stating that the backstop must be replaced by “alternative arrangements,” but also for a motion tabled by Conservative MP Caroline Spelman saying that no deal must be prevented.
One ERG member told Business Insider: “We need to make sure the motion is more neutral before supporting it as Spelman is referred to in the motion which we disagree with, so rather than “welcomes” it needs to say “notes discussions ongoing.””
If the ERG — which can count up to 60 votes — decides to vote against the motion on those grounds, it means the prime minister will suffer another humiliating defeat on what should have been an easy win.
Trade secretary Liam Fox warned on Thursday morning: “Our European partners will be watching our debate and listening today to see if they get the impression that if they were to make those concessions Parliament would definitely deliver.”
“There’s a danger that we send the wrong signals.”
This afternoon’s vote is non-binding, unlike the House of Commons defeat on her Brexit deal last month, which was the biggest in modern British history.
However, it would weaken the hand of the prime minister who is trying to demonstrate a united domestic front to Brussels in an attempt to renegotiate parts of her deal.
The news comes as reports emerged that Remain-supporting ministers are once again planning to seize control of the Brexit process by the end of February. The long-awaited rebellion from Remain-supporting ministers could finally happen on February 27, the FT reported.
Backbench MPs including Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Conservative Oliver Letwin are planning to table an amendment which would seek to take no deal off the table and put the next stages of Brexit in parliament’s hand, rather than Downing Street’s.
The prime minister’s aides have reportedly conceded that there is a good chance that Cabinet ministers will quit in order to support the initiative.