PM admits her battle for her Brexit is ‘tough’

PM bats off Philip Schofield’s jibes that her Brexit deal will be a ‘DISASTER’ as she faces grilling on This Morning sofa and admits she is finding life ‘tough’ – but vows she will ‘hold her nerve’ and face down critics

  • Theresa May is staring down the barrel of near-certain defeat on her Brexit deal
  • DUP has joined Labour and Tory rebels to demand full legal advice on package
  • The PM or her senior ministers could face charge of contempt of Parliament  
  • Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is due to make a statement to MPs later today 
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Theresa May batted off jibes that her Brexit deal is a ‘disaster’ today as she vowed to face down mutinous MPs.

The Prime Minister admitted she admitted she was having a ‘tough time’ today and the process of getting the package she has thrashed out with Brussels past the Commons was ‘difficult’.

But despite a wall of opposition from Tory rebels, Labour and the DUP, she insisted the government will ‘hold our nerve’ and press on with doing the best thing for the UK. 

In an interview on ITV’s This Morning, Mrs May was asked by presenters Phillip Schofield and Rochelle Humes whether she was ‘knackered’.

‘It”s a tough time. It is a difficult time,’ she said.

But Mrs May added that she was determined to cling on as PM and again appealed to MPs to recognise the benefits she had secured in negotiations.

‘What I’ve got is a deal that delivers,’ she said. 

In an interview on ITV’s This Morning, Theresa May said: ‘What I’ve got is a deal that delivers.’

In at times tetchy exchanges with Mrs May during the interview, Philip Schofield said: ‘It looks like the end is a disaster.’

In at times tetchy exchanges, Philip said: ‘It looks like the end is a disaster.’

But the premier replied: ‘No, the end is a deal – a good deal.’

She said the UK must ‘hold our nerve in getting this over the line so we can deliver on Brexit and people can that better future.’ 

Philip also demanded to know, What have you won that we didn’t have before?’

Mrs May insisted: ‘What I’ve got is…we end free movement – we control who comes in to our country.

‘We end sending vast sums of money to the EU.

‘We will end the jurisdiction of the European Courts – we will make our own laws.’

Later she added: ‘It is an important moment in our history. This is not, “oh well it’s any old vote”. 

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‘This is about delivering what people voted for when they voted to leave the EU and I think that’s important for politicians t remember.’  

Mrs May dodged questions about whether she will resign if she loses the crunch vote on December 11 – saying she was ‘focused’ on winning it.

At one point the frustrated premier urged Philip to let her ‘finish a sentence’ as he harried her for answers.  

Asked how she personally was coping the her relentless workload and pressure, Mrs May said: ‘It is tough, in any job there are times its really tough and you have to work through it. In politics it’s the same.’

She said her husband was a ‘huge support’ and was telling her to keep doing what it ‘right for the country’.

‘Philip is a huge support to me he says I must do what I believe is right,’ she said. 

‘I believe what is right for this country….is let’s get this deal done.’

How does the Commons contempt process work? 

Under Commons rules, the Speaker decides whether to allow a contempt motion to go before the House.

If he does and the vote is carried, it would then be referred to the Committee of Privileges which would rule on whether a contempt of Parliament had taken place.

If it is decided that a contempt had occurred, the committee can recommend a suitable punishment which is then put back to MPs to agree.

In theory, the most severe penalty is expulsion from the House, although the prospects of that happening would appear remote.

There were only three expulsions in the 20th Century, with the last one in 1954. Two of them involved serious criminal convictions, and the third was for lying to a committee and allegedly taking bribes.  

However any finding against the Government would be potentially highly damaging for Mrs May at a time when she is at her most vulnerable politically.  

Mrs May said she hoped MPs would ‘put the national interest first’ and said members of the public were backing her.

‘What people think about this is important. Yesterday in my constituency, in Twyford, I was switching on the Christmas lights,’ she said.

‘A woman said to me “when you say you want to get this done you are speaking for me”.

‘That’s important. For us as MPs it’s not just about what we think, it’s about what you’re doing for people.’ 

The appearance comes as Mrs May faces the threat of being held in contempt of Parliament.

She is resisting huge pressure to disclose the private opinion Attorney General Geoffrey Cox gave on the package she has thrashed out with Brussels.

The eminent QC and strident Brexiteer was a key figure in forcing the deal through the Cabinet – but there are claims his formal written advice was far bleaker and he warned the UK would be stuck ‘indefinitely’ in the Irish border backstop.

Despite a Commons motion being passed demanding the full document, ministers are insisting they will only release a summary as the full material would break convention and undermine the operation of government.

Boris Johnson today joined condemnation of the refusal, saying it was a ‘scandal’ and pointing out that Mrs May previously called for advice on the Iraq War to be released. 

If the government does not cave in by the time Mr Cox makes a statement to the Commons this evening, Speaker John Bercow could launch contempt proceedings – triggering a formal investigation in the PM or her most senior colleagues.

The potential punishments include suspension or expulsion from the House, although they have not been deployed for decades.  

Boris Johnson (right) has joined demands for the full legal advice from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (left) to be published

The wrangling comes as the bitter row over Mrs May’s Brexit plan reaches the endgame, with just over a week until the crunch Commons vote.

As tensions rise, the DUP has said it ready to sign a joint letter with Labour complaining that ministers are in contempt of parliament – after a Commons motion called for the details to be issued.

The party’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said: ‘If the Government attempt to ignore the will of the House of Commons and refuse to publish the full legal advice on the Irish backstop, the DUP will work with colleagues from right across the House to ensure they start to listen.’ 

In his Telegraph column, Mr Johnson also waded into the row, saying: ‘It is a scandal that this is currently being withheld.

‘You will recall that, when she was in opposition, the present Prime Minister wrote to the Labour government and complained of their failure to publish the Attorney General’s advice on the Iraq war. 

‘She was right then – and how much more wrong and absurd is her position now, when you consider that this legal question is more important even than the Iraq war.’  

It represents another massive hurdle for Mrs May to overcome as stares down the barrel of almost certain defeat on December 11.

A heavy loss could bring Mrs May’s time in Downing Street to a chaotic halt – although allies hope going down by a small margin could allow her to try again.

Meanwhile, demands for a second referendum are mounting after the dramatic resignation of universities minister Sam Gyimah over the weekend.

Senior Labour figures including shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Tom Watson are thought to be ramping up pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to back a fresh national ballot. 

Environment Secretary Michael Gove admitted yesterday that a referendum was a potential outcome if Mrs May loses, but said it would ‘rip the social fabric of the country’. He also insisted Leave would win by a bigger margin than in 2016.

MPs across Parliament have angrily accused ministers of ignoring the will of the House after they said only that they would release a ‘full reasoned political statement’ on the legal position.

It follows a binding Commons vote last month requiring the Government to lay before Parliament ‘any legal advice in full’ – including that given by the Attorney General – relating to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Ministers chose not to oppose the motion – tabled by Labour under an arcane procedure known as the humble address – as they feared a damaging Commons defeat. 

Is May’s deal already sunk? 100 Tories have already come out against it meaning she must find almost 100 votes from Brexiteer rebels, DUP and Labour to get it through the Commons

Theresa May has secured her deal in Brussels but her fight to get it actually in place in time for Brexit day is just beginning.

The ‘meaningful vote’ promised to MPs will happen on December 11 and is the single biggest hurdle to the Brexit deal happening – and Mrs May’ fate as PM.

Mrs May needs at least 318 votes in the Commons if all 650 MPs turns up – but can probably only be confident of around 230 votes.

The number is less than half because the four Speakers, 7 Sinn Fein MPs and four tellers will not take part.

The situation looks grim for Mrs May and her whips: now the deal has been published, 100 of her own MPs and the 10 DUP MPs have publicly stated they will join the Opposition parties in voting No.

This means the PM could have as few as 225 votes in her corner – leaving 410 votes on the other side, a landslide majority 185.

This is how the House of Commons might break down:

Mrs May needs at least 318 votes in the Commons if all 650 MPs turns up – but can probably only be confident of around 230 votes.

Mrs May needs at least 318 votes in the Commons if all 650 MPs turns up – but can probably only be confident of around 230 votes.

The Government (plus various hangers-on)

Who are they: All members of the Government are the so-called ‘payroll’ vote and are obliged to follow the whips orders or resign. It includes the Cabinet, all junior ministers, the whips and unpaid parliamentary aides.

There are also a dozen Tory party ‘vice-chairs and 17 MPs appointed by the PM to be ‘trade envoys’.

How many of them are there? 178.

What do they want? For the Prime Minister to survive, get her deal and reach exit day with the minimum of fuss.

Many junior ministers want promotion while many of the Cabinet want to be in a position to take the top job when Mrs May goes.

How will they vote? With the Prime Minister.

European Research Group Brexiteers demanding a No Confidence Vote

Who are they: The most hard line of the Brexiteers, they launched a coup against Mrs May after seeing the divorce. Led by Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker.

How many of them are there: 26

What do they want: The removal of Mrs May and a ‘proper Brexit’. Probably no deal now, with hopes for a Canada-style deal later.

How will they vote: Against the Prime Minister.

Other Brexiteers in the ERG

Who are they: There is a large block of Brexiteer Tory MPs who hate the deal but have so far stopped short of moving to remove Mrs May – believing that can destroy the deal instead. They include ex Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and ex minister Owen Paterson.

Ex ministers like Boris Johnson and David Davis are also in this group – they probably want to replace Mrs May but have not publicly moved against her.

How many of them are there? Around 50.

What do they want? The ERG has said Mrs May should abandon her plans for a unique trade deal and instead negotiate a ‘Canada plus plus plus’ deal.

This is based on a trade deal signed between the EU and Canada in August 2014 that eliminated 98 per cent of tariffs and taxes charged on goods shipped across the Atlantic.

The EU has long said it would be happy to do a deal based on Canada – but warn it would only work for Great Britain and not Northern Ireland.

How will they vote: Against the Prime Minister.

Remain including the People’s Vote supporters

Who are they: Tory MPs who believe the deal is just not good enough for Britain. They include the group of unrepentant Remainers who want a new referendum like Anna Soubry and ex-ministers who quit over the deal including Jo Johnson and Phillip Lee.

How many of them are there: Maybe around 10.

What do they want? To stop Brexit. Some want a new referendum, some think Parliament should step up and say no.

A new referendum would take about six months from start to finish and they group wants Remain as an option on the ballot paper, probably with Mrs May’s deal as the alternative.

How will they vote? Against the Prime Minister.

Moderates in the Brexit Delivery Group (BDG) and other Loyalists

Who are they? A newer group, the BDG counts members from across the Brexit divide inside the Tory Party. It includes former minister Nick Boles and MPs including Remainer Simon Hart and Brexiteer Andrew Percy.

There are also lots of unaligned Tory MPs who are desperate to talk about anything else.

How many of them are there? Based on public declarations, about 48 MPs have either said nothing or backed the deal.

What do they want? The BDG prioritises delivering on Brexit and getting to exit day on March 29, 2019, without destroying the Tory Party or the Government. If the PM gets a deal the group will probably vote for it.

It is less interested in the exact form of the deal but many in it have said Mrs May’s Chequers plan will not work.

Mr Boles has set out a proposal for Britain to stay in the European Economic Area (EEA) until a free trade deal be negotiated – effectively to leave the EU but stay in close orbit as a member of the single market.

How will they vote? With the Prime Minister.


Who are they? The Northern Ireland Party signed up to a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Conservative Party to prop up the Government.

They are Unionist and say Brexit is good but must not carve Northern Ireland out of the Union.

How many of them are there? 10.

What do they want? A Brexit deal that protects Northern Ireland inside the UK.

How will they vote? Against the Prime Minister on the grounds they believe the deal breaches the red line of a border in the Irish Sea.

Labour Loyalists

Who are they? Labour MPs who are loyal to Jeremy Corbyn and willing to follow his whipping orders.

How many of them are there? Up to 250 MPs depending on exactly what Mr Corbyn orders them to do.

What do they want? Labour policy is to demand a general election and if the Government refuses, ‘all options are on the table’, including a second referendum.

Labour insists it wants a ‘jobs first Brexit’ that includes a permanent customs union with the EU. It says it is ready to restart negotiations with the EU with a short extension to the Article 50 process.

The party says Mrs May’s deal fails its six tests for being acceptable.

How will they vote? Against the Prime Minister’s current deal.

Labour Rebels

Who are they? A mix of MPs totally opposed to Mr Corbyn’s leadership, some Labour Leave supporters who want a deal and some MPs who think any deal will do at this point.

How many of them are there? Maybe 10 to 20 MPs but this group is diminishing fast – at least for the first vote on the deal.

What do they want? An orderly Brexit and to spite Mr Corbyn.

How will they vote? With the Prime Minister.

Other Opposition parties

Who are they? The SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Green Caroline Lucas and assorted independents.

How many of them are there? About 60 MPs.

How will they vote? Mostly against the Prime Minister – though two of the independents are suspended Tories and two are Brexiteer former Labour MPs. 


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