Labour is plotting to unseat Theresa May within days, Tory MPs have been warned.
Jeremy Corbyn could call a no-confidence motion as early as Wednesday if Conservative rebels force a Government defeat over Brexit the previous night.
The Opposition leader was last night readying for a fight at the ballot box by setting out his ‘vision’ for Britain under a Labour Government.
Labour strategists have pounced on No 10’s warning to wavering Tories in marginal seats that they face ‘Armageddon’ if they vote down Mrs May’s deal with Brussels and their rebellion triggers a General Election.
Theresa May could face a no confidence vote as early as Wednesday if she fails to get her Brexit plan approved
If a no confidence vote is called on Wednesday, the DUP is threatening to join forces with Labour unless the Prime Minister is replaced by a Brexiteer such as Boris Johnson.
In an alternative scenario, pro-Brexit MPs have also been told that a no confidence vote could lead to leading Remainers such as Chancellor Philip Hammond joining forces with Labour to force the UK to stay in a customs union with Brussels.
However, the DUP denies that it would move against Mrs May; and many Tory MPs believe that Labour will hold off calling a vote of no confidence because it is equally divided over Brexit – and does not want to inherit the mess.
One DUP MP told The Mail on Sunday last night that they would not vote against Mrs May, saying: ‘I’ve told her so to her face. We just want her to go back to Brussels and sort this out as I am sure she can.’
Another senior DUP source insisted ‘the leader of the Conservative Party is a matter for the Conservative Party and we have all promised to back the Prime Minister in a confidence vote’.
So what happens next?
No 10 fear that Theresa May’s premiership could implode on Tuesday night if the scale of her defeat is insurmountable, with aides and allies braced for two doomsday scenarios:
fear one: If Theresa May’s bill is heavily defeated, Labour is likely to call a confidence vote in the Government on Wednesday. If the Government loses heavily, Mrs May will resign; if it wins, she will likely head to Brussels immediately for crisis talks.
fear two: Cabinet Remainers could join with Labour to hamstring the Prime Minister by hijacking her Immigration Bill to demand the UK stays in a Customs Union with the EU forever.
It would likely spark a devastating backlash from Brexiteers that could yet topple the PM’s wafer-thin grip on power.
But Labour added to the pressure last night by announcing that Mr Corbyn would unveil a new party political broadcast on Wednesday in which he would ‘spell out how Labour plans to unite and rebuild the country’ and ‘campaign on a growing view that austerity and inequality has created a country of haves and have-nots’.
The party also announced that it was hiring pollsters for the next Election ‘to test policies and the impact of campaigning in key marginals’ and had selected 100 candidates for the closest-fought seats.
Labour sources claimed that the most recent polling showed that the country has ‘moved economically to the Left’.
One said: ‘While the Government has been locked in bitter infighting and chaos over their botched Brexit negotiations, the needs of the country have been neglected. Tory austerity has left the majority of people worse off, creating a cost of living crisis and levels of poverty not seen since the 1930s.
‘Our Election campaign strategy will set out a positive vision of how we will make the country better, one of fairness and good public services, where we support each other.’
But Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis urged his MPs to fall into line to avoid letting Mr Corbyn into No 10.
He told The Mail on Sunday that if Mrs May’s deal was rejected, ‘all that would be left is Parliament working to block a no-deal exit and, come March 29, no Brexit.
‘Voters would see that Parliament had the opportunity to deliver on the referendum and chose not to.
Jeremy Corbyn is readying for a fight at the ballot box by setting out his ‘vision’ for Britain under a Labour Government
‘Jeremy Corbyn, a Brexiteer throughout his 30 years in Parliament, would choose the path of least resistance and could well end up trying to push through a Second Referendum at the behest of his party. That would be a gross betrayal of British democracy and of the referendum – the biggest democratic vote in our nation’s history. It would plunge the public’s trust in politicians to new lows and re-open divides across the country.
Brussels last-ditch mission to save deal
Brussels’ most senior Eurocrats are set to publish two letters tomorrow in a last-ditch effort to help Theresa May get her Brexit deal through the Commons.
The Mail on Sunday understands EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council president Donald Tusk will each send a separate letter designed to reassure MPs over the controversial ‘backstop’ measure that could see the UK locked to EU rules indefinitely.
But the correspondence is likely to fall far short of the demands of Tory Brexit rebels who want the Prime Minister to reopen talks with the EU to rip out the fallback from the terms of her withdrawal agreement.
EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council president Donald Tusk will each send a separate letter designed to reassure MPs over the controversial ‘backstop’
Brussels sources say that Mr Juncker’s letter will vow to ‘expedite’ trade talks between the EU and the UK to try to avoid the ‘backstop’ ever being triggered.
He will set out a process for a new trade deal to be done as quickly as possible but is unlikely to include a date for talks to start.
Meanwhile, Mr Tusk will reiterate the 27 other EU countries have a ‘firm determination’ to have a new relationship with Britain in place by the end of 2020 to avoid the measure kicking in.
He will add that if the deal is not ready by that point, all European states will work to have it signed by 2021 at the latest, meaning the UK would only have to shadow EU trade and customs rules for an additional year.
Last night Downing Street insiders said they expected the letters to be published on Monday evening for maximum impact ahead of Tuesday’s Commons showdown.
Even with a trickle of Tory MPs climbing down from their opposition to Mrs May’s deal, she is on course for an defeat of historic proportions. After three full days of debate, Mrs May’s allies are braced for a thumping defeat, with efforts focused on keeping the tally to ‘under three figures’.
Mrs May will likely address MPs and the public late on Tuesday evening or early on Wednesday, with Ministers expecting her to announce yet another trip to Brussels to try to squeeze more concessions from the EU.
Officials in Brussels, Dublin and London are all said to be ‘acutely aware’ that the backstop is the last major sticking point to a deal being done, with the Irish government expected to come under increased pressure to soften their objections to the measure being watered down.
But last night Brussels sources said in response to the likely defeat, attention would instead begin by focusing on a rewriting of the non-legally binding political declaration that sets out EU and UK hopes for future trade arrangements rather than reopening the withdrawal agreement treaty on the terms of divorce.
‘The clock is ticking. Tonight we will be just 48 hours away from this historic vote. We have 48 hours to deliver on the referendum result. We have 48 hours to save Brexit’.
Mr Lewis’s deputy, James Cleverly, also stoked rumours that the party is preparing for an Election campaign by taking aim at Lynton Crosby, the Australian election strategist who played a key consultancy role in Theresa May’s doomed 2017 Election.
Mr Cleverly said: ‘One of the decisions made after the 2017 Election was that we needed to have an in-house Election-winning capability.
‘Lynton famously said that you can’t fatten a pig on market day. Which basically means if you’re not doing the hard work between Elections it doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a guru, they can’t turn around an Election if you’re not already on the road to winning it.’
Foreign Office war games No Deal
Theresa May’s own diplomats have written off the chance of her striking a deal with Brussels and are planning for Brexit to be delayed – and the chaos of No Deal.
With Mrs May facing defeat in the Commons, senior Foreign Office officials held a series of meetings over the past week to ‘wargame’ their political strategy.
According to a detailed account of the meetings, the Prime Minister’s own diplomats ‘held their heads in their hands’ as they set out the likely passage of events. Concluding the Government was now in full ‘crisis mode’, the officials decided:
- A No Deal is now the ‘default planning mode’;
- It is now regarded within Whitehall as ‘highly likely’ that we will still be in the EU after the supposed Brexit Day of March 29, with an extension of Article 50 now the most probable outcome;
- Up to 20 per cent of Foreign Office staff – 2,800 out of 14,000 –are to be removed from front line work and transferred to Brexit duties;
- All ‘proactive policy-making’ is to be placed on hold.
The source painted an extraordinary picture of a Government that has been paralysed by the political drama playing out in the Commons. ‘There were many heads in hands around the tables – gallows humour prevailed,’ the source said.
‘The situation was described by a very senior civil servant as amateur hour with bells on.’
The source added: ‘The Government is now effectively in crisis mode. With up to one fifth of FCO staff being withdrawn from frontline work, the ring-fencing of key priorities means that some departments will face bigger staff losses.
‘There is no clarity on what the policy is, but No Deal is now the default planning assumption.
‘The second-level assumption is that Brexit will not happen on March 29. But in truth no one has any idea what to do or what to expect if the deal is rejected.
‘All proactive policy-making is on hold, as forward planning against such uncertainty is recognised as impossible.’
Officials in Education, Justice and Welfare have also been asked to take up new roles within weeks.
The secondments are expected to last at least six months. Jonathan Slater, permanent secretary at the Department for Education, told staff the priority was ensuring ‘key services continue to operate’ but other areas of the department’s work were likely to be mothballed.
Labour’s John McDonnell is accused of failing to condemn activist’s call for Theresa May ‘to shoot herself’ over Windrush scandal
Labour’s John McDonnell was accused last night of failing to condemn an activist’s call for Theresa May ‘to shoot herself’ over the Windrush scandal.
The Shadow Chancellor faced calls to explain why he did not immediately disown the abusive remark, made at a rally in London he was addressing.
Mr McDonnell was standing in the wings as Stand Up to Racism co-convenor Weyman Bennett attacked the Prime Minister over the Windrush scandal of Commonwealth migrants wrongly deported.
He said: ‘Our advice to her [the Prime Minister] is very, very simple advice: shoot yourself. And the reason why you should shoot yourself is because… we’ve have seen people lose their lives as a result of the Windrush scandal.
An activist called on Theresa May to ‘shoot herself’ while Labour’s John McDonnell watched on
‘Who put the Windrush scandal in? It was Theresa May.’
The remark came days after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a ‘safe space’ for political debate after Remain MP Anna Soubry was confronted by protesters outside of Parliament and called a ‘Nazi’.
It also came after Mrs May called on Mr McDonnell to apologise for comments about ‘lynching’ the former Pensions Secretary Esther McVey four years ago. He has insisted that he was not indicating approval when he quoted a member of the public.
Former Labour acting leader Harriet Harman, who last week called for new measures to protect MPs from abuse, reacted with horror at yesterday’s ‘shoot herself’ remark.
She tweeted: ‘This is terrible. Freedom of political speech is essential in a democracy but that brings with it personal responsibility not to contribute to atmosphere of violence and threat to elected politicians.’
Tories demanded an apology from Mr McDonnell, accusing him of applauding the speech by Mr Bennett.
Enraged Tories have called on the Shadow Chancellor to apologise for not intervening
Tory chairman Brandon Lewis said: ‘In a week where we have seen politicians from all sides come together to condemn abusive behaviour towards politicians and journalists, to see the Shadow Chancellor applauding.
‘John McDonnell should apologise and condemn these words.’ Last night, a spokesman for Mr McDonnell said: ‘The Shadow Chancellor does not condone this language.’
Before he became Shadow Chancellor, Mr McDonnell sparked outrage in 2014 for repeating a comment that Ms McVey should be lynched.
To the fury of Ms McVey and fellow Tories, he has refused to apologise for the remark, insisting he was only quoting what someone else had said. He has also stressed that he was not inciting violence against the Tory MP.
Mr McDonnell said: ‘I spoke at a packed public meeting and there was a whole group in the audience that kicked off, quite critical of the whole concept, because they were arguing, “Why are we sacking her, why aren’t we lynching the b*****d’?”’
Ms McVey has said that the remark made her life ‘difficult and dangerous’ and claimed that it had led to her being followed.
Last night, Mr Bennett – a Socialist Party member – insisted that he had meant the ‘shoot herself’ advice ‘metaphorically’. He said he himself was from the Windrush generation.