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Pushing me out of office won't result in better plan, May warns Tory rivals

By David Wilcock

Theresa May took a swipe at Tory rivals threatening to unseat her as party leader as she warned the next seven days would be "critical" to achieving a successful Brexit.

The Prime Minister warned that a change of leadership would not make it easier to get a deal past parliament or the EU, after furious Brexiteer backbenchers started moves to oust her.

It came as the BBC reported that the European Commission has proposed December 31, 2022 as the ultimate end date for any extension to the post-Brexit transition period.

Mrs May told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday that as far as she knew the threshold of 48 letters of no confidence needed to start a leadership battle had yet to be reached.

In a message to those plotting her downfall, including members of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic MPs, she said she had not considered quitting.

She added: "A change of leadership at this point isn't going to make the negotiations any easier and it isn't going to change the parliamentary arithmetic. What it will do is bring in a degree of uncertainty. That is uncertainty for people and their jobs.

"What it will do is mean that it is a risk that we delay the negotiations and that is a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated."

Mrs May's interview came after former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, whose resignation last week was a key point in one of her most brutal weeks as Prime Minister, suggested she had failed to stand up to a bullying European Union.

There were also continuing reports of a plan by senior Cabinet ministers who remain in Government to try to alter the withdrawal agreement at the eleventh hour.

Asked about this, Mrs May said: "There is indeed more negotiation taking place and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."

Mr Raab told the BBC's Marr show that he supported the Prime Minister, but not her deal, adding: "I want her to get this right."

But he also confirmed he had been speaking "intensively" with Andrea Leadsom and other ministers, looking to change her deal. He said: "I only resigned on Thursday morning so I can't say I have had extensive conversations. But I am willing to talk and be as constructive as I can."

He warned MPs against submitting no confidence letters to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, saying: "It's a total distraction from what we need to do, we need to get Brexit over the line, we need to support our Prime Minister.

"I have got huge respect for her, I wrote that in my resignation letter, it is not flim-flam.

"I have worked very closely with her on Brexit and I think there is still the opportunity to get this right, support the Prime Minister - but she must also listen and change course on Brexit."

Asked if she had considered stepping down, Mrs May said: "No, I haven't. Of course it has been a tough week, actually these negotiations have been tough right from the start, but they were always going to get even more difficult right toward the end when we are coming to that conclusion."

She added that the next seven days "are going to be critical", and said she would be travelling back to Brussels to talk with key figures including Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, ahead of an emergency European Council summit on November 25.

Responding to Mrs May's interview, a source in the ERG said: "We have negotiated in good faith with the iceberg and cannot break our commitments to it."

Sir Graham told BBC Radio 5 Live that not even his wife knows how many letters he has received from other Conservative MPs.

He told Pienaar's Politics: "Victoria does not know, nor do the two vice-chairmen of the 1922 Committee or the other officers."

Last night, the BBC reported that the transition period, during which the UK would not be part of the EU but would abide by its rules, could be extended until the end of 2022. Currently, it is expected to end at the end of 2020.

While that would mean two extra years to negotiate withdrawal, Brexiteers are likely to be angered that the UK would still be subject to EU rules without any representation in EU decision-making.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said no to any renegotiation with the UK over the withdrawal agreement.

Mr Varadkar told RTE "we've always had an open ear, open door" to requests from London, and said he would keep an open mind towards any proposals made in regard to the future political relationship declaration.

But pressed on the 585-page deal, he said: "No. That's been agreed already by the UK government and by negotiators."

He also said the Republic is not contemplating a hard border if the draft withdrawal deal is rejected.

Belfast Telegraph

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