May sells her Brexit plan to business leaders as Tory divisions continue


Rumours swirled on Thursday with regards to who would take the role vacated by Dominic Raab, who resigned on Thursday in protest against May's Brexit deal.

"If we can not close this deal on reasonable terms, we need to be very honest with the country that we will not be bribed and blackmailed or bullied and we will walk away", he told the Sunday Times. If a majority of Tory MPs voted for May to go, she would be out.

Five remaining Brexiteer cabinet members are now reportedly pressuring May to go back to the European Union to demand changes before a planned special summit in Brussels on November 25, when the 27 member states of the European Union are to vote on the deal.

The Prime Minister played down suggestions she might seek to maintain Cabinet unity by offering ministers a free vote when the Brexit deal comes before Parliament, as International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has requested.

Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street following a five-hour Cabinet meeting, announcing ministers have agreed the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement. "The people of the United Kingdom deserve better".

Barnier met ministers from the 27 European Union governments in Brussels as they try to complete a separate, non-binding "declaration" on plans for a trade and security relationship with Britain that May would agree at a summit in Brussels on Sunday.

"A painful week in European politics is starting", he said.

"I still think a deal could be done but it is very late in the day now and we need to change course", he told the BBC.

He has either received them, is close to receiving them, or is nowhere near close to receiving them, depending on who you believe. "He has them, but subject to (approval)".

A Downing Street spokeswoman said Mrs May was "very pleased" that Mr Gove will stay on and "continue doing the important work he is doing".

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker said he had been speaking to colleagues and his count was "a little over 48" with another dozen "probable" - although he acknowledged this may be inaccurate as only Sir Graham knew the true figure.

"There is Cabinet collective responsibility in this country".

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"The proposal presented to Cabinet is a capitulation", he wrote.

He later said that a confidence vote now might give Conservative MPs their only chance to remove May as leader before the next general election.

The tentative deal triggered the resignation of two of May's cabinet secretaries - including Dominic Raab, her Brexit secretary who helped negotiate it - as well as letters from members of parliament in her own Conservative party calling for a vote of no confidence in her leadership. "But European negotiations are never over until they are concluded".

The PM took her Brexit message to the CBI conference as she sought to win business backing for her plans.

After the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will be in two separate economies, requiring customs monitoring.

But with the DUP - whose 10 MPs prop up Mrs May in the Commons - voicing their unhappiness at the agreement, and the prospect of a significant Tory backbench revolt, it is hard to see how ministers can make the numbers add up.

The deal has infuriated pro-Brexit lawmakers in May's Conservative Party.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said MPs should back the plan because the alternatives of a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum are "ugly".

He told Sky News Sunday that his party will vote against the deal and demanded that May return to Brussels and renegotiate the divorce agreement.

Mrs May said the withdrawal agreement had been "agreed in full" by both sides.

Under backstop arrangements created to keep the Irish border open, if no trade deal is agreed by the end of the transition period in December 2020, a temporary "EU-UK single customs territory" would be established.

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