- Reuters / Simon Dawson
- Jacob Rees-Mogg says Brexit Secretary David Davis’s resignation is a “real hope” for “rescuing Brexit.”
- Fellow Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns calls on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to follow suit and resign.
- A leadership challenge against Theresa May could be imminent.
- Davis resigned from Cabinet on Sunday night in protest against the prime minister’s approach to negotiations with the EU and against her shift towards a softer Brexit.
LONDON – Jacob Rees-Mogg has described David Davis’s resignation as a “real prospect” for “rescuing Brexit” as fellow pro-Brexit Conservative MPs consider sparking a leadership challenge against Theresa May.
Davis resigned from Cabinet on Sunday night in protest against the prime minister’s approach to negotiations with the EU and against her shift towards a softer Brexit.
Rees-Mogg – who heads the pro-Brexit European Research Group of Conservative MPs – said on Monday that Davis had done “a great service to his country” and said the move was a “real prospect for rescuing Brexit.”
Asked whether he would support a leadership challenge against Prime Minister May, Rees-Mogg refused to rule out the prospect but said a change in policy was more important than a change in leadership.
“I’m seeking Brexit. The key is that Brexit is delivered properly,” he told LBC Radio.
He said that the Conservative party does not have a “great history of changing their leaders.”
Is a leadership contest imminent?
That has not stopped a growing number of Tory MPs calling for May to face a leadership contest. Many of the party’s pro-Brexit wing were incensed when a meeting with her Cabinet at Chequers on Friday produced a manifesto for a much softer Brexit than she had previously proposed.
If Theresa May wants to break her manifesto pledges that is up to her [but] these things have consequences.
In order to trigger a leadership challenge, 48 Conservative MPs need to send a letter to Graham Brady, chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, calling for a contest. Brady has reportedly received between 25 and 40 so far, although some of those were sent before the Chequers deal and could be retracted if MPs decide a vote of no confidence is not in the national interest.
Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns, who quit her junior government post in May in order to “fight for Brexit,” called for Foreign Secretary Johnson to resign on Sunday shortly after saying she would “100 per cent” back a leadership contest if May “watered down” her so-called Brexit red lines.
Davis himself on Monday said that he would not support a leadership challenge against May, who is a long-term ally. “I won’t be encouraging people to do that [challenge May],” he told BBC Radio 4.
“I think it’s the wrong thing to do.”
Would @andreajenkyns be willing to sign a letter to trigger a Tory leadership contest? “100 per cent yes” if Theresa May “waters down Brexit red lines” she tells Sunday Politics Yorks & Lincs #bbcsp pic.twitter.com/DeRGFBX7nU
— Tim Iredale (@iredalepolitics) July 6, 2018
Conservative MP Marcus Fysh on Monday also refused to give his support to the prime minister, describing the government’s policy as a “stinker” and warning: “If Theresa May wants to break her manifesto pledges that is up to her [but] these things have consequences.”
May’s camp is confident that the prime minister could survive a no-confidence vote, not least the pro-Brexit wing of the party does not number the 150 signatures a successful challenge would need, and because most of her colleagues fear such turmoil could spark a general election and install Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.