Theresa May 'to bring back her Brexit deal for third time'
Theresa May could bring back her Brexit deal to the Commons this week amid signs growing numbers of Tory rebels are now ready to back it, a senior Cabinet minister has said.
Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom said there was a "real possibility" there would be sufficient support for the British government to stage a third "meaningful vote", either on Thursday or Friday.
She said ministers were continuing to talk to MPs - including those in the DUP, who prop up the government at Westminster and whose votes may be crucial in determining the outcome.
Mrs Leadsom told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think that there is a real possibility that it does (come back).
"We are completely determined to make sure that we can get enough support to bring it back."
Securing a "meaningful vote" this week would mean the government had met the deadline set by the EU for an extension of the Article 50 withdrawal process to May 22 to allow it to complete the preparations for leaving.
Otherwise the prime minister will have to come forward with an alternative approach by April 12, which would involve either a lengthy delay or Britain leaving with no deal at all.
Her comments came as a number of leading Conservative Brexiteers signalled they were ready to fall into line amid fears Brexit could be lost altogether if it does not get through.
With MPs set to stage a series of "indicative votes" on alternatives to Mrs May's plan, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group, said there was a "concerted attempt" to prevent Britain leaving.
"I think that we have got to the point where legally leaving is better than not leaving at all," he told Today.
"Half a loaf is better than no bread."
He said his only condition for supporting the deal was that Mrs May wins round the DUP, who continue to hold out against the plan.
"I won't abandon the DUP because I think they are the guardians of the union of the United Kingdom," he said.
His comments came after Brexit figurehead Boris Johnson hinted on Tuesday he might be ready to swing behind the deal.
"If we vote it down again, for the third time, there is now, I think, an appreciable risk that we will not leave at all," he told an audience of Daily Telegraph readers.
But the former foreign secretary stressed he was "not there yet" and indicated a change at the top of the party may be required to win him over.
He said: "If people like me are to support this deal ... then we need to see the proof that the second phase of negotiations will be different from the first."
With deep frustration across the party, Mrs May is expected to face calls to name the date of the departure when she addresses the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee immediately before Wednesday's votes.
Mr Rees-Mogg said he was not calling for her to say when she intended to go but added: "I am aware that it is an issue for some other people."
Mrs Leadsom, however, refused to to be drawn on whether Mrs May should continue to lead the government once the Withdrawal Agreement had been approved.
"I think that is a matter for her, I am not expressing a view," she said.
She added: "I am fully supporting the prime minister to get us out of the European Union."
Wednesday's votes are taking place after MPs seized control of the Commons agenda allowing them to consider a range of alternatives - including a call for a public vote on any deal and a demand for Parliament to choose between no-deal and no Brexit if the UK gets within two days of crashing out.
In a highly unusual change to normal procedures, MPs are staging a paper ballot on a series of "indicative votes" in the hope of establishing what sort of Brexit could command a majority in Parliament.
Mr Leadsom again warned the government would not necessarily be bound by the outcome as some of the options were "undeliverable".
"We will look very carefully at it but the reality is that it may not be negotiable and certainly not within the time frame," she said.
The architect of the cross-party plan, Tory former minister Sir Oliver Letwin, warned MPs could force the Government to act if it tried to ignore the results.
"Those who I am working with across the parties will move to legislate to mandate the government - if we can obtain majorities in the House of Commons and House of Lords for that - to carry that forward," he told the Today programme.
Meanwhile, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner sparked an angry response after he suggested Labour could not support a motion calling for a confirmatory referendum on any deal because it was not a "Remain party".
He said: "The Labour Party is not a Remain party now. We have accepted the result of the referendum."
Deputy leader Tom Watson, who took part in the People's Vote march on Saturday, said the whipping arrangements for the vote had not been agreed and that he supported the motion.