May Survives Meeting With Tory Lawmakers on Her Brexit Plan

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May survived a meeting with Conservative Party lawmakers Wednesday evening, as lawmakers largely decided to express public loyalty instead of venting private frustrations.

May told the closed-door meeting of the 1922 Committee of rank-and-file members of Parliament to hold their nerve as she pursues a deal, according to one lawmaker who attended, Michael Fabricant. Although there were critical questions, by and large the meeting chose to rally round the prime minister, according to several people present.

May Survives Meeting With Tory Lawmakers on Her Brexit Plan

With her cabinet deeply divided about her European Union negotiating strategy and the number of Tories committed to vote against her plan growing by the day, there had been talk that a challenge to her leadership might come this week. But May’s opponents say her survival depends on keeping the support of the bulk of Tories who don’t care passionately about Brexit -- “The Blob,” as one lawmaker calls them. On Wednesday evening, The Blob stayed loyal.

“The mood of the meeting was get behind her and let’s support her to negotiate," George Freeman, who once headed May’s policy board but has been critical of her plans since returning to the backbenches, said in an interview. Another lawmaker, who asked not to be named, said that unity had broken out.

Three Things

But May’s problems remain formidable. The clock is ticking down on negotiations, and it remains hard to see what sort of Brexit deal would win the approval of both the EU and her own party.

As the prime minister has begun to discuss more possible concessions to the EU, she has come under increasing pressure from pro-Brexit lawmakers. In the meeting, Andrew Bridgen asked her to name three things she’d won from the EU in the talks. Nadine Dorries asked whether her negotiator, Ollie Robbins, was overstepping his mandate.

May Survives Meeting With Tory Lawmakers on Her Brexit Plan

But one member of Parliament -- a Brexiteer, said the premier promised to deliver Brexit whatever happens on March 29 and that the U.K. won’t be in a customs union forever. That reassured him, he said.

Another lawmaker present was blunter, saying that May continued to survive because there was no viable alternative leader. Even so, many still think May’s days are numbered. Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan later said on ITV’s "Peston" show that she thought her party would be looking to replace May within the next year.

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