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Tory eurosceptic Mark Francois calls for vote of confidence in Theresa May

A formal vote of confidence in Mrs May as Conservative leader cannot be held until December, after she survived an earlier attempt to oust her.

Mark Francois MP (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Mark Francois MP (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Prominent Conservative Brexiteer Mark Francois has called for a vote this week to allow Tory MPs to demonstrate they have “lost faith” in Theresa May’s leadership.

Mr Francois said he believed that the Prime Minister should resign for the sake of “the existential future of our party and the destiny of our country”.

But he said if she would not, then a vote on Wednesday would send a signal to leaders of the remaining 27 EU states that they should not grant Mrs May the delay to Brexit she is requesting at a Brussels summit that evening.

We simply cannot go on like this, with a weak leader, a riven Cabinet and a party in despair Mark Francois

In a letter to the chair of the backbench Tory 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady, published on the Brexit Central website, he asked for an “indicative vote of confidence” to be held on Wednesday afternoon, hours before the European Council meets.

A formal vote of confidence in Mrs May as Conservative leader cannot be held until December, after she survived an earlier attempt to oust her by 200 votes to 117, granting her a 12-month period of grace during which no challenge is permitted.

Sir Graham told last week’s meeting of the 1922 executive that a proposal for an indicative vote had been put to him.

The executive decided that, while it was possible for such a vote to be staged, it was neither necessary nor appropriate to do so at this point.

Mr Francois wrote: “We simply cannot go on like this, with a weak leader, a riven Cabinet and a party in despair.

“I believe Theresa May has been a failure as leader of our party, which she now threatens to destroy. Hers is a classic example of hubris – and after hubris comes nemesis.”

Mr Francois, who is deputy chair of the European Research Group of eurosceptic Tories, said that it was “literally incredible” that Mrs May was discussing a possible compromise Brexit deal with Jeremy Corbyn and that she was contemplating European Parliament elections in which Tory candidates would be “slaughtered”.

“We are living in a world gone mad,” he said. “A Conservative Prime Minister, who voted Remain, egged on by a coterie of neo-federalist civil servants and a powerful Remainiac cabal in the Cabinet, has tried – and failed three times – to pass a draft treaty through the House of Commons which would lock us into a customs union forever.”

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Theresa May survived a vote of confidence as Conservative leader in December 2018 (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Unless MPs act, the UK risks “being forced into a customs union with Labour support, which is completely at variance with the manifesto on which we were elected”, he warned.

Mr Francois said: “In 36 years as a member of the Conservative Party, I have never known our MPs, councillors and activists to be as angry and disillusioned as they are today.”

The former shadow Europe minister said that any deal with Labour based on Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement was “extremely unlikely to pass”, as opposition on the Tory benches was growing once more.

Branding Mr Corbyn a “committed Marxist, a lifelong CND supporter and a man who would quite willingly disarm this country of its defences”, he claimed that the Labour leader was “taking advice on the negotiations from Sinn Fein/IRA”.

Meanwhile, he accused Brexiteers in the Cabinet of doing “absolutely nothing save consume vast quantities of pizza” as “riven by personal ambition, they keep their heads firmly below the parapet, many of them hoping that by sitting out this great battle for the destiny of our country, they will somehow inherit the crown”.

Mr Francois said he hoped that the EU27 leaders would “kick us out of the EU” on Wednesday by refusing to grant an extension to the Brexit process.

And he said that an indicative vote shortly before Wednesday’s scheduled meeting of the 1922 Committee would make it clear to the EU27 that Mrs May could no longer command the majority needed in Parliament to deliver a Brexit deal, making it “extremely unlikely” they would grant an extension.

“Our future is therefore literally in the hands of 313 Tory MPs,” he said.

And he added: “Enough is enough. If she goes by Wednesday we can Leave on Friday.”

PA

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