Theresa May urged to quit to help deal pass

London, Mar 24 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 3/24/2019 12:17:22 PM IST

Theresa May could gain support for her Brexit deal if she promises to stand down as prime minister, senior Conservatives have told the BBC.

MPs in the party have said they might reluctantly back the agreement if they know she will not be in charge of the next stage of negotiations with the EU.

But the chancellor said changing prime ministers “wouldn’t help”, adding: “This isn’t about individuals.” No 10 has dismissed reports that Mrs May could be persuaded to stand aside.

Newspapers claim cabinet ministers are plotting a coup against the prime minister, aiming to replace her with a caretaker leader until a proper leadership contest is held later in the year. But there are differing accounts of who the preferred candidate is, with the Brexiteer and Remain wings of the party said to disagree.

The prime minister has come under growing pressure to quit following a week in which she was forced to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50, and criticised for blaming the delay to Brexit on MPs.

The withdrawal deal she has negotiated with the EU has been overwhelmingly rejected in the Commons twice, and it remains unclear whether she will bring it back a third time next week after she wrote to MPs saying she would only do so if there was “sufficient support”.

Chancellor Philip Hammond told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “This is not about the prime minister… changing prime ministers wouldn’t help, changing the party of government wouldn’t help.”

He denied reports he was hoping to parachute in Mrs May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, as caretaker, adding: “To be talking about changing the players on the board, frankly, is self indulgent at this time.”

Mr Hammond said he understood MPs were “very frustrated”, but “one way or another Parliament is going to have an opportunity this week to decide what it’s in favour of”.

The Sunday Times reports that Mr Lidington, who voted Remain, is being lined up to replace Mrs May, while the Mail on Sunday said the Brexiteer Environment Secretary Michael Gove was the “consensus choice”.

But one senior backbencher told the BBC’s Iain Watson that even standing aside would not be enough for her deal to be voted through, and that Mrs May might as well “dig in”.

No 10 has also dismissed suggestions that she would agree a “job share” arrangement where senior ministers would be given extra responsibilities.

The BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg says there is “serious manoeuvring” going on.

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