ISOLATED Theresa May was last night holed up in No10 amid an extraordinary Cabinet bid to force her from power.
Brexiteer Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom quit over the PM’s bid to offer MPs the chance of a second EU referendum.
And seven other Cabinet ministers also told No10 they will not back Mrs May — a clear signal for her to step down.
But the PM refused to budge, with aides saying: “She is going nowhere until she gets Brexit done.”
Mrs May even refused a series of ministers’ demands for face-to-face talks, scrapping an appointment with Scottish Secretary David Mundell with ten minutes’ notice.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith last night joked that Mrs May was virtually barricading herself in at Downing Street — saying: “The sofa is up against the door, she’s not leaving.”
Cabinet rebels are furious at Mrs May for saying the Government will legislate for a second referendum, insisting they agreed only to offer the Commons a vote on it.
One minister said: “It’s not just her intention of legislating for a second referendum. It’s also become a clear reality the PM is no longer getting a hearing, so someone else now needs to do it.”
Mrs May’s bleary-eyed look was reminiscent of ex-PM Margaret Thatcher’ tears after she quit in 1990.
After her resignation, Leadsom delivered a withering personal attack on Theresa May — accusing her of blowing Brexit and calling on her to quit “in the interests of the country”.
The PM’s ex-leadership rival reignited their long-running feud with a devastating letter to Mrs May while resigning as Leader of the Commons.
In it she came close to hinting Mrs May had lied to the Cabinet by failing to consult ministers, which saw a second referendum plan passed without their say-so.
It also emerged that 76 Tory MPs — a quarter of her party — are now vowing to vote down her deal.
Tomorrow the PM faces a crunch showdown with Tory kingmaker Sir Graham Brady.
He will tell her she must name her departure date by the end of the day — or face being forced out by his powerful 1922 executive committee within days.
The 18-strong group, which governs party leadership rules, yesterday decided to give Mrs May 48 hours to leave No10 with “dignity”.
Members had held a secret ballot on whether to change Tory rules to hold a fresh no confidence vote in her leadership, with their votes sealed in envelopes.
If she does not stand down, the envelopes will be opened by Sir Graham. One 1922 executive said last night there was “a clear majority” in the room for a rule change.
The senior MP added: “Theresa will have to go on Friday, whatever happens now.”
Former minister Tim Loughton was among Tory MPs who sent new letters to Sir Graham calling for her to go.
He even tweeted a photo of the addressed envelope, with the words: “Enough said.”
On another day of high drama in Westminster;
- Tory kingmaker Sir Graham Brady will tell Theresa May she must name her departure date on Friday or face being forced out by his powerful committee within days.
- Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn refused to engage with the PM, telling her it would be pointless because “she only has a few days left in the job”.
- Desperate Tory and Labour chiefs attacked Nigel Farage in a last-ditch bid to stop him trouncing them at the Euro elections, as the nation goes to the polls.
- Senior ministers demanded meetings with the Prime Minister to tell her NOT to offer MPs a chance to vote on a second Brexit referendum – but she refused to meet them
- Dozens of Tories – including previously loyal backers of Mrs May – say she has now run out of road and must resign as soon as possible and leave Brexit to her successor
- The Chief Whip told party bosses she was not planning to stand down last night and instead will hold a crunch showdown with the Tory backbench chief tomorrow – after today’s Euro elections
- Tory grandees pulled back from changing party rules so the leader can be removed immediately
- The PM’s DUP allies warned she is leaving Britain at the mercy of the EU
ANDREA’S THREE-YEAR WAIT FOR REVENGE
COMMONS Leader Andrea Leadsom was Theresa May’s rival for the Tory leadership — and her stinging resignation letter was her revenge served three years later.
Mrs Leadsom quit last night with a devastating attack on the Prime Minister’s latest Brexit climbdown and her handling of Cabinet tensions.
But it was just the boiling over of the simmering antagonism between the pair.
Mrs Leadsom, a former banker and married mum of three, had been a prominent Leave supporter in the referendum campaign. She stood against Remain-backing Mrs May after David Cameron resigned as PM in 2016.
The women made it to the final two but then Mrs Leadsom gave a disastrous interview in which she appeared to suggest she was a better choice for PM because she had children.
She claimed this meant she had a “stake in the future” by contrast with Mrs May who cannot have children for health reasons.
Mrs Leadsom, 56, told a newspaper back then that Mrs May only had “nieces, nephews”, adding: “But I have children who are going to have children who will directly be part of what happens next.”
She withdrew from the contest soon after the controversy and so cleared the path for Mrs May to enter Downing Street.
The new Prime Minister appointed Mrs Leadsom as her Environment Secretary only to demote her to Commons Leader in a reshuffle after the disastrous 2017 General Election.
Then last summer it emerged Mrs Leadsom had attacked Mrs May’s doomed Chequers plan — telling colleagues how she “hated” it for breaching Government red lines on Brexit.
Afterwards Mrs Leadsom did not quit the Cabinet but is believed to have been unpopular in No 10 for her hardline stance. Last month she made more waves by claiming that No Deal would not be “nearly as grim as many would advocate”.
Mrs Leadsom has also repeatedly clashed with Commons Speaker John Bercow. Last year she confronted him over claims he called her a “stupid woman”.
But, as Commons Leader, Mrs Leadsom has also been central in tackling the “Pestminster” culture of sexual harassment and bullying.
In 2017, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon was forced to quit after she accused him of making lewd comments to her.
- By Martin Beckford, Whitehall Editor
Seven other Cabinet ministers also told No10 they won’t back Mrs May’s high stakes final Brexit gamble — a clear signal for her to step down.
Others in the top table revolt include Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay.
In the event of a new Tory leadership contest, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would be a front-runner. But allies said Mrs Leadsom is considering whether to mount a new Tory leadership challenge to succeed Mrs May.
It would be her second tilt at the top job following her controversial bid in 2016 when she was forced to withdraw after appearing to suggest she was a better choice for the PM because she had children.
In her resignation letter, Mrs Leadsom said the PM’s plans would fail to “deliver on the referendum result”.
She acknowledged that leaving on the eve of today’s European elections was damaging but she insisted she had to quit as she was “fundamentally opposed” to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which she was due to unveil to MPs today.
STARMER BREAKS RANKS TO BACK PEOPLE’S VOTE
SHADOW Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer broke ranks with Jeremy Corbyn yesterday to demand a People’s Vote.
He said Theresa May should put a firm proposal for a “public vote” in legislation.
He spoke as Labour peer and former EastEnders actor Michael Cashman, 68, quit the party and said he would vote for the Lib Dems in today’s European elections.
‘URGE YOU TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS’
Hinting that the PM had lied to the Cabinet after her second referendum plan passed without their say-so, she wrote: “There has been such a breakdown of Government processes that recent Brexit-related legislative proposals have not been properly scrutinised or approved by Cabinet.”
And in a call for Mrs May to stand down in the national interest, Mrs Leadsom finished her letter by saying: “I fully respect the integrity, resolution and determination that you have shown during your time as Prime Minister.
“No one has wanted you to succeed more than I have, but I do now urge you to make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this Government and our party.”
Senior No10 staff were given no warning about Mrs Leadsom’s departure, and she rang the PM to inform her of the decision only 30 minutes before making it public shortly before 8pm last night. Downing Street issued only a curt response, with a spokesman saying Mrs Leadsom had served “with distinction and great ability”.
Mrs May said she was “sorry” Mrs Leadsom was off, praising her “passion, drive and sincerity”.
THE SUN SAYS
THOSE who predicted Theresa May would be a poor Prime Minister have regrettably been vindicated.
In fairness, her task has been harder than any predecessor’s since Winston Churchill. It became all but impossible after she blew her majority in 2017.
Even so, Mrs May and her woeful Cabinet of mainly third-rate friends have failed on Brexit and the social justice mission she initially championed. Andrea Leadsom cannot bear to be a part of it any longer.
All PMs want a “legacy”. It can be the only reason Mrs May has clung on so long.
And though she will leave office with none to speak of, she can at least retain her dignity in defeat.
Even that is ebbing way.
She said she was “grateful for the support given over the last three years” in working to deliver Brexit.
But the PM said she believed Mrs Leadsom was wrong to argue that the deal negotiated with the EU meant the UK “will not become a sovereign country”.
In a further sign of the PM’s support slipping away, eight junior ministers led by Nadhim Zahawi pleaded for a meeting with her after deciding they couldn’t support the Withdrawal Agreement Bill due to the second referendum pledge.
They were snubbed after putting their request to Chief Whip Julian Smith.
Mr Zahawi told The Sun: “We decided we had to act.
“It’s a matter of credibility now. We’ve been arguing all along that a second referendum would lead to more uncertainty and division. We just cannot offer one.”
MORE ‘DIVISION AND DEADLOCK’
In a statement after the 1922 Committee meeting, Sir Graham said he would meet the PM tomorrow and then consult with the 1922 executive. Tory MPs were told of tomorrow’s meeting last night.
It came amid a growing rebellion of Tory MPs to Mrs May’s “new” Brexit deal, which she outlined on Tuesday.
The number opposed to the deal has more than doubled since the speech, which promised MPs a vote on a second referendum and customs union.
Crucially it means Mrs May must now win over more than 70 Labour MPs to have any chance of getting her deal through the Commons.
The PM even lost several loyal Tory MPs who have voted for the deal on all three previous occasions — including Martin Vickers, Robert Halfon and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown. Despite scores of MPs coming out against the deal, Mrs May pushed ahead with a Commons statement pleading with them to support her faltering plans.
She said that another rejection would plunge Britain back into yet more “division and deadlock”.
And unveiling her deal to the Commons, she insisted the Government would “make provisions” for a second referendum if MPs voted for one.
Furious People’s Vote backers said the commitment didn’t go far enough for them to back her Brexit bill.
ANGER AS PM SHUNS NO DEAL
THERESA May incensed Brexit-backing Ministers by killing off a Cabinet No Deal debate despite calls for a “step change” in preparation, we can reveal.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay implored the Government to increase contingency planning.
He said a “cliff-edge” exit on October 31 would be “far worse” for business than March 29 and warned of pre-Christmas warehousing shortages.
But the PM stunned Brexiteers in Tuesday’s Cabinet by postponing a vote on No Deal work until after the half term break. Yesterday, she claimed a No Deal could threaten the Union’s future and leave Britain more vulnerable to terrorists.
The PM agreed with MP Richard Graham that Brexit Party chief Nigel Farage’s “superficially seductive” line about leaving on WTO terms was dangerous.
She said the UK’s security relationships with the EU27 was “fundamental” to keeping the country safe, yet leaving with no deal would close them off.
- Exclusive by Steve Hawkes
Additional reporting; Kate Ferguson and Martin Beckford