MPs get ANOTHER 11 days off: Westminster took the whole of Easter off… now it’s holiday time again

MPs have been handed another 11-day break – despite their failure to solve the Brexit crisis.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom yesterday announced the dates for the Whitsun recess, which will run from May 24 to June 3.

After the EU agreed a six-month delay to Brexit last month, European Council president Donald Tusk pleaded with Britain: ‘Please do not waste this time.’ But MPs are now due to have four recess periods lasting 83 days over this time.

Mr Tusk was yesterday asked if he believed the UK was wasting time as he attended a meeting of the leaders of the other 27 EU states in Romania. He said: ‘It’s a good question.’

The Whitsun recess will come only a month after MPs returned to Parliament following their 11-day Easter break. The break will mean MPs will not be in Westminster in the aftermath of the European elections on May 23.

Former defence secretary Gavin Williamson, who was sacked for allegedly leaking from the National Security Council, posted a picture of himself yesterday having lunch with Chancellor George Osborne

This could give Theresa May protection against efforts to oust her if the Conservatives perform as badly as expected. Mrs Leadsom yesterday told MPs the Commons would rise again later this month ‘subject to the progress of business’.

She added: ‘It is the Government’s intention to seek cross-party agreement to get a Bill that the whole House can support.

‘It is absolutely essential that we leave the European Union, and it is utterly unacceptable that we have not done so three years after the referendum.

‘I say to all honourable members who are worried about the impact on businesses and on people going about their everyday lives that if they support the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, we can put such issues to rest and get on with the important matters that our constituents are concerned about.’

Jeremy Corbyn yesterday claimed a second referendum on Brexit could be a healing process for a divided country. Launching Labour’s European elections campaign, he called on voters to abandon Leave and Remain labels to stop the Brexit debate becoming an ‘endless loop’. He claimed that a ‘People’s Vote’ could be good for the country, insisting: ‘I would want that to be seen as a healing process and bring this whole process to a conclusion.’

Speaking in Chatham, Kent, he said Labour would never accept the Government’s ‘bad deal’ or a ‘disastrous’ No Deal.

Labour sources warned last night that cross-party Brexit talks are doomed to failure. No 10 yesterday said Theresa May was hoping to bring forward legislation to take the UK out of the EU within the next fortnight – if an agreement can be reached with Labour.

But Opposition sources said the talks, which have been running for more than a month, had almost no chance of success.

MP Andrew Murrison has been appointed to a ministerial role in the Foreign Office by Theresa May. As part of the minor reshuffle, Robert Buckland moves from solicitor general to a minister of state role at the Ministry of Justice. Lucy Frazer, formerly a junior minister at the MoJ, replaces Mr Buckland. Paul Maynard, previously a Government whip, replaces Miss Frazer.

Former defence secretary Gavin Williamson, who was sacked for allegedly leaking from the National Security Council, posted a picture of himself yesterday having lunch with Chancellor George Osborne. He wrote: ‘The upside of not being in government is more time to catch up with old friends.’

20 hopefuls seeking May’s job… and she’s not even gone yet!

By Jack Doyle and Jason Groves for the Daily Mail 

The Tory leadership contest exploded in dramatic fashion yesterday as it emerged up to 20 MPs could try to succeed Theresa May.

In a series of public appearances, ministers and former ministers set out their stalls for the top job, made coded attacks on potential rivals and openly debated the future direction of the party.

One Cabinet minister compared the public jostling for a job Mrs May has yet to relinquish to a ‘Game of Thrones push for the Iron Throne’.

Yesterday morning, former work and pensions minister Esther McVey announced she would stand, saying the Conservative Party needed a leader who ‘believes in Brexit’.

Former TV presenter and Tatton MP Miss McVey, who quit the Cabinet last year over the Brexit deal, said she had won backing from enough MPs to launch her campaign.

‘I have always said quite clearly if I got enough support from my colleagues, yes I would,’ she told TalkRadio.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd sidestepped questions about her own ambitions saying she was ‘incredibly fortunate to be in this role’. But she indicated that she would not support candidates who wanted to scrap the HS2 rail link or who refused to rule out a No Deal Brexit.

On track for a leadership bid! Liz Truss, centre, is pictured at a theme park in West Sussex

On track for a leadership bid! Liz Truss, centre, is pictured at a theme park in West Sussex

On Newsnight last night she complained about MPs making public pitches for the top job, saying: ‘This shouldn’t be some Game of Thrones push for the Iron Throne. We’ve all got important jobs to do. Let’s deliver on those.’

Justice Secretary David Gauke made a major speech in which he warned his party not to embrace Right-wing ‘populism’ and stay a One Nation party instead of ‘yearning for a mythical past’.

He said Brexiteer MPs who claimed Britain could keep the benefits of membership after it left had ‘left some voters bemused and angry that the simple Brexit they were promised … has not been delivered’.

He refused to say which Tory MPs he regarded as populist, but his comments will be seen as an attack on Boris Johnson.

Although he refused to rule out running to succeed Mrs May, he said his position was to ‘resist the clamour to stand’.

In an interview, Chancellor Philip Hammond called for Mrs May to be replaced ‘as quickly as possible’ once she confirms her departure. He also said that he would like to stay as Chancellor under her successor but wouldn’t take any other Cabinet job.

Sacked former Aid Secretary Priti Patel positioned herself as an heir to Lady Thatcher in a speech to activists. She described a ‘fundamental struggle for the soul of the Conservative Party’ and advocated ‘greater economic freedom and personal liberty’.

Mrs May is under mounting pressure to set a timetable for her departure amid fears of a Tory wipeout at the European Elections and no sign of a Brexit deal with Jeremy Corbyn.

There could be close to 20 contenders to replace her. Front-runners are thought to be Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove. Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt also have organised campaigns.

Rory Stewart, recently promoted to International Development Secretary, has said he wants to be Prime Minister, and Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom – who came second three years ago – says she is ‘seriously considering’ whether to stand.

Among more junior ministers Liz Truss, Tobias Ellwood and James Cleverly are set to run.

From the backbenches, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee, is seen by some MPs as a possibility as well as Johnny Mercer and Steve Baker.