Theresa May is on course to face a confidence vote according to the Conservative party’s arch-Brexiteers. Senior members of the European Research Group today publicly called for her departure. After Dominic Raab’s resignation this morning, members of the group of Eurosceptic backbenchers gathered in the committee room corridor to discuss their options. Brexiteers were seen raising their hands in what appeared to be a vote. While not everyone present agreed a vote was the answer, a significant number said they had sent their letter to 1922 committee chair Graham Brady. That includes Simon Clarke – the Tory MP who previously publicly retracted his – and Jacob Rees-Mogg who has helpfully tweeted his out.
In a statement outside Parliament following the meeting, Rees-Mogg said we would have to wait and see if there were the 48 letters required for the vote – but said he expected a vote to follow. He said the government’s policy was a failure and not a proper Brexit. Mogg ruled himself out as leader though he did say who ever holds that position must ‘believe in Brexit’.
Explaining his decision, he said that even within the ERG ‘not everyone agrees with me’. He also told hacks that he would see it as a success even if Theresa May won the vote. The reason? ‘If 48 letters go in it shows we will not vote for this deal and the government cannot pass this deal.’ That could force May to change course.
As for May’s replacement, Rees-Mogg praised Priti Patel and Penny Mordaunt. He said ‘one of the problems was having a Remain-er’. Notably, Rees-Mogg said there was now nothing May could do to change his mind that she was not right for the job. He said the next leader must be picked by Tory members – but hoped it could be resolved within weeks.
Not everyone agrees. In some comical scenes ahead of the meeting, pro-EU MP Alistair Burt appeared to try and convince his colleagues not to take the nuclear option. Even some ERG members don’t think now is the time for a vote. The mood among Brexiteers is not jubilant. They seem to have reluctantly come to the decision that they have no choice but to call a vote. A confidence vote now is a matter of when not if.