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News | Published November 20 2018

Cabinet meet to discuss withdrawal agreement, while Rees-Mogg urges Tories to ditch May

The cabinet held their first meeting today since the news on Friday that senior ministers Dominic Raab and Esther McVey had quit in the light of the prime minister's proposed EU withdrawal agreement. Theresa May, who recently brought Amber Rudd back into the cabinet and promoted Stephen Barclay to the role of Brexit secretary, listened to MPs concerns about the agreement, with a particular focus on the backstop arrangement.

Meanwhile, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the ERG that has openly opposed May's agreement, called on MPs to help remove May as prime minster, threatening that if she wasn't removed now she would remain leader during the 2022 general election. Rees-Mogg, who announced his intention to submit a no confidence letter to the 1922 Committee last week, said that there were few Conservative MPs that feel May leading the party into another election was a "good idea."

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  • Cabinet meet to discuss the withdrawal bills
  • Rees-Mogg says he hasn't given up on the 1922 Committee receiving the 48 letter required to trigger a leadership contest

There are still conflicting reports over the number of letters submitted to Graham Brady, but Rees-Mogg said that the ERG have not given up on removing the prime minister as leader of the party. "We have a government led by Remainers who want to keep us tied into the EU as tightly as possible," he said. In an appearance on Sunday Politics this weekend, Brady did explain that he himself had not submitted a letter of no confidence in May's leadership.

Despite the continued speculation about her job, the Tory Chief Whip Julian Smith labelled the discussion in today's meeting as "positive." It is understood that a number of cabinet minister, including the pro-Brexit leader of the House of Commons, Angela Leadsom, have continued doubts over the proposed backstop arrangement that is featured in May's initial agreement, and a Downing Street statement explained that "technological solutions" could be utilised in response to the potential issues raised.

Despite the potential progress within the cabinet, it appears that there is a growing majority of MPs in opposition to May's withdrawal agreement. Spokespeople from the SNP, Labour, the Lib Dems, Ukip and the DUP have all come out in criticism of the proposed deal and it was today announced by Labour that Leader Jeremy Corbyn had met with SNP leader to Nicola Sturgeon to co-ordinate a potential response.

The DUP, whose ten seats ensure a Conservative majority for May, have threatened withdrawing their support for the government as a result of the agreement. Nigel Dodds, the deputy leader, said "The government will require DUP support to deliver its domestic agenda."

The party's MPs failed to back the government on a number of amendments to its Finance Bill last night, before offering their support to a Labour amendment. Despite the agreement that the two parties signed in the aftermath of the 2017 election, which promised additional funds for the Northern Irish economy, the party seem to be willing to withdraw their support in protest against the government's position of Brexit.