May dodges backbench demands for departure timetable

Theresa May has dodged backbench demands for her departure timetable.

Backbenchers on the 1922 Committee had demanded she set out precise dates for when she would make way for another leader of the Conservative Party.

Mrs May had met 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady privately on Tuesday night, and he was expected to share their discussion with Tory MPs on Wednesday night.

But Brexiteer MPs emerged grim-faced from the meeting, where it emerged the Prime Minister had persuaded colleagues to allow her to kick the can down the road for another week – despite disastrous local election results.

Leaving the meeting, Sir Graham suggested the delay was to allow Mrs May one last push to get her Brexit deal through Parliament before the European elections, which are expected to be another brutal defeat for Conservative candidates.

He said: “The executive is very keen to meet the Prime Minister and will have a full opportunity to discuss and to reach whatever conclusions it wishes to reach next week.

“It’s my understanding it’s the Government’s intention to bring a second reading of the Bill forward in the near future, certainly the intention is before the European election takes place.

Sir Graham Brady (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Personally I hope the Bill will be brought forward in a form which contains elements of the Political Declaration brought forward that would obviate the need ever for the Irish backstop to apply.”

Sir Graham would not confirm whether he was seeking a departure date from Mrs May at the meeting next Wednesday.

But the Tory MP indicated the Withdrawal Agreement Bill could be brought back next week when he said he expected it “hopefully in the much nearer future” than the elections on May 23.

Leaving the 1922 meeting, Brexiteer MP Nadine Dorries expressed impatience.

She said: “She’s not given any decision, there’s no timetable and they need to get on with it.

“We need to make sure we get that final decision soon because everybody needs it.”

Conservative MP Alberto Costa told the Press Association Sir Graham expected Mrs May to leave once she got her Brexit deal through Parliament.

He said: “The Prime Minister has been very clear she will step down as soon as the Withdrawal Agreement is passed.

“My understanding is that in respect of the request Graham Brady made two weeks ago… he expects to be given an assurance that her Withdrawal Agreement will once again go before Parliament.”

Tory MP Simon Hart said backbenchers were resigned to the idea a leadership change would not solve the problems with the current Brexit deal.

“This would be all very well as a temporary pain relief measure,” he said.

“But if it doesn’t actually change the prospects of delivering an orderly Brexit, then we could be about to go through quite an agonising process to replace the Prime Minister with a keen and enthusiastic new person who is then going to come up against exactly the same problem as the current one…

“My fear about that is everybody’s expectations would be built up, public and colleagues, only to be thwarted when the reality dawns that nothing has changed.

“It would be much better if the current Prime Minister finishes this horrible stage of the process and then they can do the easy bit.”

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