It's D-day for May as she meets backbench leader to discuss departure date

  • Live coverage as Theresa May is expected to announce her departure as Prime Minister

Speculation is mounting that Theresa May is finally to reveal her departure date from No.10.

The prime minister is understood to be meeting backbench leader Sir Graham Brady at about 9am on Friday amid growing pressure from her Cabinet and other MPs to stand aside.

Mrs May was expected to discuss her future after her authority was left in tatters following the backlash against her “new Brexit deal”.

Senior ministers set out their concerns in “frank” talks with the beleaguered premier as Downing Street delayed publication of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) which outlines her Brexit plan in law.

Arch Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg told ITV News that a new leader would be good for the country.

He said: "I supported the PM with vim and vigour until she broke her red lines.”

When asked what Boris Johnson could achieve that PM hasn’t: “A firmness of purpose because he’s willing to leave without a deal.”

He also said it was Mrs May's fault the UK had not left the EU, not MPs.

In a further sign of a dramatic day ahead, Helen Grant, the Conservative vice chair for Communities, resigned in order to "actively and openly" support one of the new leadership candidates, she said on Twitter.

Last night, when asked if she should resign, Conservative former deputy prime minister Lord Michael Heseltine responded: "Well, she's gone.

"I mean have no illusions, she's sitting in Number 10 with no Cabinet, no friends, no party, no majority and no time."

The Prime Minister’s private meeting with Sir Graham, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, could be the moment that Mrs May sets the date for her exit from Downing Street.

A 1922 Committee source said they expected June 10 to be the day Mrs May chooses.

“Hopefully, what will happen is she will stand down as Tory leader I think on or before June 10, and she will hopefully remain as caretaker Prime Minister until such time as a new Tory leader is elected,” they said.

“My feeling is that she will stay until June 10.”

The source said a new leader would ideally be in place by the end of the summer to get a Brexit deal through Parliament before October 31, the date currently set for the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Mrs May’s leadership appears fatally damaged by the reaction to her latest Brexit deal, which offers MPs a vote on whether to hold a second referendum and a choice which could leave the UK in a temporary customs union with the EU – both measures which are unacceptable to Tory Eurosceptics.

The scale of Cabinet anger at the legislation – which led to Andrea Leadsom’s resignation on Wednesday night – was made clear by two of Mrs May’s most senior ministers.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves the Cabinet meeting in 10 Downing Street, London.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is understood to have told the Prime Minister to ditch the WAB completely, saying it was clear it would not pass.

It was a “step too far” to ask Tory MPs to vote for it under those circumstances, he told the Prime Minister.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid set out his concerns about the prospect of another referendum Credit: Isabel Infantes/PA

Mr Javid had a “frank discussion” with the Prime Minister about the plan, making it clear he does not believe the Government should be “paving the way” for a second referendum.

He was understood to be pleased with the delay to the publication of the WAB and neither minister is expected to follow Mrs Leadsom out of the Cabinet.

“The Prime Minister is listening to her colleagues about the Bill and will be having further discussions,” Mrs May’s spokesman said.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has concerns the offer of a vote on a referendum could be exploited by the SNP to bolster Nicola Sturgeon’s demands for a second independence vote.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt also said she had “given my advice to Number 10”.

The WAB had been due to be published on Friday but that has been delayed in a sign of the chaos at the top of the Government.

MPs were told that the Government now intends to publish the Bill in the week beginning June 3.

Downing Street had previously insisted the WAB would go before MPs for a vote that week, but it was not announced when the Government set out the forthcoming Commons agenda.

Andrea Leadsom quit as Leader of the House, prompting the latest crisis. Credit: PA

In a sign that Mrs May’s departure may come within weeks, rather than days, the Foreign Secretary said he expected her to still be Prime Minister when US President Donald Trump visits the UK on June 3.

In response to a question following a speech at the National Cyber Security Centre, he said: “Theresa May will be Prime Minister to welcome him and rightly so.”

Credit: PA Graphics

Mrs Leadsom said the Prime Minister’s future was “a matter for her”. Mrs May appointed Mel Stride as Commons Leader following Mrs Leadsom’s departure.

Digital minister Margot James claimed Mrs May was “being hounded out of office because Parliament will not make a decision and the parties just have an inability to compromise” over Brexit.