Should Theresa May resign if her deal is voted down?
By Joe Harker
Prime minister Theresa May is facing pressure from her cabinet ministers to announce she will resign in June in exchange for support on her Brexit deal, reports The Times.
Her negotiating team was told by senior Brexit supporting ministers that the only way they could back her withdrawal agreement was if someone else was prime minister for the next stage of negotiations.
The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29 but if a deal is secured negotiations on the future relationship will take place.
Meanwhile, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has suggested that a potential leadership contest could be put together within a matter of weeks. He said he would like May to step down at a "point of her own choosing" but suggested a delay to Brexit would trigger a backlash among hardliners in the Conservative party.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Simon Heffer argued that May's time as prime minister was up if her deal was defeated in a meaningful vote due in parliament today.
Having first secured the withdrawal agreement in November, delayed the first meaningful vote in December and suffered the largest parliamentary defeat in history in January, the prime minister is presenting essentially the same deal now.
It has been thoroughly rejected and if it is once again then Heffer believes that should be the final straw for the prime minister. What new direction can she present when she has been so wedded to her withdrawal agreement?
Through defeats and delays enacted through the expectation of defeat, May's withdrawal agreement is being presented to the House of Commons yet again. If it is defeated once more the idea that someone else should be in charge of Brexit would be hard to deny.
If neither country nor parliament wants the deal offered by May then perhaps the only way to get a deal is under a different prime minister.
The Counter Claim:
However, The Guardian reports that a number of Eurosceptics have warned that May's guarantee of quitting later on doesn't mean the UK will get a Brexit deal.
If the prime minister's deal is defeated today but the subsequent votes over the next two days indicate parliament rejects a no deal Brexit then the UK will be facing up to three months of negotiations.
A short delay to Brexit with the intention of finding a solution would likely have to be resolved before July when the next European parliament comes into effect without British MEPs. To delay any longer would likely mean a much longer extension of Article 50.
If the UK wants to secure a deal between the end of March and the end of June having voted down May's withdrawal agreement then it needs a new Brexit vision that works for the EU and can command a majority in the Commons.
While Theresa May might be seen as a blockage to this potential new vision her resignation would not bring the UK closer to a Brexit deal it likes. Changing the party leader does not guarantee her replacement would command the support of a united Tory party.
The prime minister has said she would step down before the next general election, seen as part of a list of concessions she made to her own party before a vote of no confidence in her leadership. If Brexit difficulties lead to a general election then May has promised to make way for a different Tory leader. Who that might be could influence the direction Brexit might take.
According to YouGov polling only two of the 632 constituencies in England, Wales and Scotland don't want their MP to reject May's deal, due to be voted on today in parliament. Neither the prime minister nor any of her cabinet hold a seat where a majority of voters approves of May's deal.
If May's deal is voted down today then MPs will tomorrow have a vote on leaving the EU without a deal. If that is voted down then a day later parliament will vote on delaying Brexit. What vision for Brexit would then be put in place is unknown.