Brexit: May under pressure amid Tory party mutiny

Draft divorce deal with EU has provoked resignations of senior ministers

Irish Times reporters Fri, Nov 16
LIVE: Brexit: May under pressure amid Tory party mutiny

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  • 10:14
    Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the aftermath of yesterday's Brexit deal fallout.

    British prime minister Theresa May is grappling with the biggest crisis of her premiership after a draft divorce deal with the European Union provoked the resignations of senior ministers and mutiny in her party.
  • 10:18

    The latest reports from the British media suggest prominent Brexiteer Michael Gove will not quit Ms May’s government an will remain as environment minister. This news comes amid speculation over his future following yesterday's resignations.

    Reuters reports:

    “Michael is staying at Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs),” a source close to Mr Gove told the Times. “He thinks it is important to continue working with cabinet colleagues to ensure the best outcome for the country.”

    The Spectator magazine was the first to report that he would stay and the BBC also said he would remain in his job.

  • 10:20
  • 10:24

    Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab was among the government figures to resign on Thursday. He cited the backstop, which includes separate regulatory rules for Northern Ireland, as the reason he could not accept the deal and was resigning from the cabinet.

    Work and pensions secretary Esther McVey and two junior ministers also resigned.

  • 10:26

    On Friday morning, Ms May said during a radio phone-in that she wants all Cabinet ministers to feel they can stay on in their jobs.

    During the segment, Ms May faced calls to stand down from members of the public. PA reports that one caller to the half-hour grilling on LBC told the PM that Jacob Rees-Mogg would make a better leader, while another said she had “appeased” the EU like Neville Chamberlain in his negotiations with Hitler.

  • 10:28
  • 10:30

    Meanwhile, the British pound clawed back losses on Friday.

    Sterling on Thursday suffered its worst day versus the euro since 2016 after Mr Raab resigned, leaving investors panicking that Britain could soon exit the European Union without a trade agreement.

    But the pound rallied nearly half a per cent on Friday as May struck a defiant tone and vowed to take Britain out of the European Union in March as planned.

    Sterling has see-sawed on Brexit news since the referendum. It rose when May struck a deal on Tuesday but has since fallen two and half cents to $1.2788.

    Analysts said the currency would remain under pressure so long as the risk of further resignations threatens to further isolate May and raise the prospect of a leadership challenge.

    Read the full report here.  

  • 10:50

    There is increased speculation in London this morning that Ms may face a no-confidence vote. When 48 letters are submitted to the party’s so-called 1922 committee, Mrs will face a leadership challenge.

    Unconfirmed reports in Britain today suggest that 48 letters have been submitted.

  • 10:55
  • 10:58
    More reports on the future of May's government; from Tim Shipman, political editor of the Sunday Times
  • 11:02

    From PA:

    When asked if 48 letters of no confidence had been received by the 1922 Committee as he left his Westminster home on Friday morning, Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “We’ll see” and raised his eyebrows.

  • 11:06

    Meanwhile, farmers in Northern Ireland are backing Theresa May’s Brexit deal, warning that crashing out of the European Union would be disastrous, Brian Hutton reports.

    Ivor Ferguson, president of the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) which represents 11,500 farmers in the North, said the agreement between London and Brussels “secures the existing trading relationship” with Britain.

    “We have no option but to support this because it is the best deal on the table,” he said.

    “A no deal would be certainly disastrous for Northern Irish farmers," he told RTE Radio One.

    The declaration will be seen as putting the Democratic Unionist Party, which is opposing the deal, on a collision course with a key section of its traditional voter base.

    Three quarters of produce from the North is exported.

    “Our number one objective at the end of the day is supporting our Northern Ireland farming family structure and that is our role, representing the farmers,” said Mr Ferguson.

  • 11:10
    Michael Gove has said it is important to get the right Brexit deal and a good outcome, Reuters reports; he said he is looking forward to working with his colleagues in government.  
  • 11:31
  • 11:56

    A Brexit deal is better than no-deal for Britain, UK trade minister Liam Fox said on Friday, according to the BBC.

    Fox, who spoke at an event in Bristol, said the government had not been elected to do what it wanted, but rather it had to do what was in national interest, the BBC's Norman Smith reported.

    - Reuters

  • 12:06

    Brian Hutton reports:

    Minster for Health Simon Harris has ruled out any renegotiation the UK's agreement for withdrawing from the EU.

    "I don’t believe there is (any room to renegotiate), because if there was, I’m sure that would have been arrived at already," he said.

    Both the European and British negotiation teams “have arrived at what they believe to be the best possible deal”, Mr Harris told Newstalk radio today.

    "The British cabinet has approved it. The Irish Cabinet has considered it. I expect now that the European Council will also approve the deal on November 25th.

    "This is a deal that has been hard won by all sides.

    "It is not something somebody just chucked down on a piece of paper over a couple of minutes."

    Mr Harris said "we are reaching a moment of truth" with Brexit and the Irish government now needed to give British Prime Minister Theresa May “time and space to do her job".

  • 12:08
  • 12:26

    The DUP wants the Conservatives to remain in government and will continue to work with whoever the party decides is its leader, Sammy Wilson has said.

    Amid speculation over the future of Tory leader Theresa May, the DUP East Antrim MP signalled his preference for their confidence and supply arrangement to continue despite the fall-out over the Brexit deal.

    “We are concentrating now on getting this deal defeated and working with others in the House of Commons to make sure it doesn't get through,” he told Newstalk radio today.

    “What happens beyond that, we are not even going to discuss.

    “We want to see the Conservative government last for the five-year term, but we have an agreement with them that they will do certain things and we’ll give support in return for that.”

    Mr Wilson said “it would be preferable” if the Tories had a leader who would deliver on its manifesto commitments, but whoever the leader is “we will work with them”.

  • 12:33

    Michael Gove insisted he still has confidence in Theresa May after deciding he will stay in her Cabinet, PA reports.

    Following the resignation of four ministers in the wake of her poorly-received Brexit deal on Thursday, speculation was rife that the departure of the most senior Leave campaigner in her cabinet could deal a damaging blow to the prime minister.

    But Ms May faces mounting pressure from within Tory ranks as further MPs called for her to be ousted.

    Speaking outside his departmental office, Environment Secretary Mr Gove was asked if he had confidence in the prime minister and replied: “I absolutely do.”

    He added: “I am looking forward to continuing to work with all colleagues in Government and in Parliament to get the best future for Britain.”

  • 13:02

    Brian Hutton reports:

    Theresa May has signalled there will be no renegotiation of the UK withdrawal agreement, according to Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty.

    Asked if the Brexit deal could be tweaked amid a chaotic response in Britain to its publication, Ms Doherty said Ms May “has given the answer to that”.

    She was referring to environment secretary Michael Gove reportedly turning down the offer of the vacated Brexit secretary post because he wasn’t allowed to take the deal back to the EU for more negotiations.

    “I think she is not for renegotiating it,” said Ms Doherty.

    “She has done a sterling job on behalf of the United Kingdom for the last 24 months, and [the deal] is what it is.”

    Ms Doherty told RTE Radio One today that “thousands of hours” had gone into negotiating the draft agreement over the past two years.

    “Credit where credit is due, they have delivered what is in essence the best deal for the island of Ireland," she said.

    “It is not passed by a long chalk yet and we have have a long way to go, but we have secured in the legal text of a withdrawal agreement what is the best deal, outside of the EU remaining in tact, for the island of Ireland.”

  • 13:23

    Bolton West MP Chris Green announced he has submitted a letter of no confidence in UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

    Mr Green brings to 22 the tally of Conservative MPs who have publicly declared sending letters to Sir Graham Brady.

    - Reuters

  • 13:49
    That's it for our liveblog today folks. You can follow any further updates on the Brexit story here.