Rees-Mogg declares no confidence in Theresa May as Tory leader

Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has submitted a letter of no confidence in Theresa May, as the Prime Minister reels from the loss of four ministers – including two from her Cabinet – in protest at her Brexit plans.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey sensationally walked out of the Government the morning after Cabinet agreed a draft EU withdrawal agreement in a stormy five-hour meeting.

Two more junior ministers – Suella Braverman at the Brexit Department and Shailesh Vara at Northern Ireland – also quit along with two parliamentary aides.

In a letter to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Mr Rees-Mogg said Mrs May's deal "has turned out to be worse than anticipated and fails to meet the promises given to the nation by the Prime Minister, either on her own account or on behalf of us all in the Conservative Party manifesto".

His move is expected to be matched by other members of the European Research Group, which he chairs, hugely increasing the chances of Mrs May facing a vote of no confidence in her leadership.

A vote will be triggered if 48 Tory MPs write letters to Sir Graham, but it is not known how many he has received so far.

POLITICS Brexit
POLITICS Brexit

Mrs May's deal came under a hail of criticism in the House of Commons, where only a handful of Tories spoke in favour of an agreement thrashed out in 19 months of intensive negotiations.

There was laughter from opposition benches when the PM said her deal would allow the UK to leave the EU "in a smooth and orderly way" on March 29.

Mrs May insisted the deal was in the national interest and offered a future relationship with "a breadth and depth of co-operation beyond anything the EU has agreed with any other country".

In a swipe at her Brexit-backing critics, she said the EU would never accept any agreement which did not involve a "backstop" arrangement to ensure the Irish border remains open.

Mrs May said it would be "entirely irresponsible" for the Government to have simply torn up the backstop.

"The Brexit talks are about acting in the national interest and that means making what I believe are the right choices, not the easy choices," she said.

"We can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all, or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated."

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on her to "withdraw this half-baked deal".

And Mr Rees-Mogg told Mrs May the deal did not match up to her previous promises on quitting the customs union, maintaining the internal integrity of the UK and leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

The shock departures of Mr Raab and Ms McVey came within little more than an hour of one another as Mrs May prepared to face MPs.

Their resignations were followed by Anne-Marie Trevelyan quitting as an unpaid parliamentary private secretary in the Department for Education and Ranil Jayawardena leaving the same post in the Ministry of Justice.

The developments threaten to derail the Prime Minister's Brexit strategy ahead of a crucial EU summit, which European Council president Donald Tusk confirmed would take place on November 25, "if nothing extraordinary happens".