U.K. Conservatives Not Planning for Snap Election: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May’s Conservative Party isn’t actively preparing for a general election, its deputy chairman said, even as Parliament looks set to push her to adopt a proposal for a softer Brexit on Monday, three days after resoundingly rejecting her plan for a third time.

Key Developments:

  • Parliament will take control of the timetable from the government for a second day on Monday in order to debate alternative Brexit options
  • Cabinet ministers are jostling for position to succeed Theresa May
  • 170 Tory members in Parliament -- more than half of the total -- call for a no-deal Brexit in a letter, Sunday Times reports

Labour’s Watson: People’s Vote is Solution (10:45 a.m.)

Deputy Labour Party Leader Tom Watson said that whatever comes out of Parliament’s attempts to find a new way forward on Brexit should be put to a second referendum. The question should pit “Theresa May’s deal, maybe with concessions, and Remain” against each other, he said.

“Whatever the outcome of the withdrawal deal negotiations, if it’s underpinned by a people’s vote, I we can eventually win a consensus that that’s the way forward,” he told the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday. “That’s the only way we can bring the country back together now.”

Watson also said his party is gearing up for a general election and will “be ready” for the U.K. to take part in European parliamentary elections if they’re required in any lengthy Brexit extension.

No Deal Would Be Irresponsible: Gauke (10:45 a.m.)

Justice Secretary David Gauke said it would be irresponsible for the government to take Britain out of the European Union without a deal, and that ministers will have to consider “very carefully” the outcome of discussions in Parliament on Monday to find an alternative deal on Brexit.

“It is not the responsible thing for the government to do to leave without a deal,’’ Gauke told the “Andrew Marr Show” on the BBC, adding that he’d have to quit the cabinet if that became government policy. “I don’t think that the British people would thank us if we left without a deal,’’ leading to “serious consequences.”

Gauke also told the BBC that while he wouldn’t favor staying in a customs union, “there are no ideal choices” available to lawmakers, and that it isn’t “sustainable” to ignore Parliament.

“Sometimes you do have to accept your second or third choice in order to avoid an outcome that you think is even worse,” Gauke said. “We need to seriously consider what parliament may have voted for. I don’t think we can necessarily give a blank check.’’

Tories Not Planning for Election: Cleverly (9:50 a.m.)

Conservative Party Deputy Chairman James Cleverly said the party isn’t preparing for a snap general election, because it wouldn’t solve anything and could cause an “unnecessary delay’’ to Brexit. But in a Sky News interview he didn’t rule one out – and appeared to contradict himself from one moment to the next.

“We are not planning for a general election,’’ Cleverly said, before telling interviewer Sophy Ridge, “we have got a minority government in a turbulent time,” that is engaging in “sensible pragmatic planning -- but we are not seeking, preparing in that kind of sense that I think you mean for a general election."

Cleverly also said that if there were an election soon, it’s an “inevitable possibility’’ that Theresa May would lead the Conservatives into it, even though she has pledged to stand down. A leadership election in those circumstances, he said, would introduce “delay and uncertainty.”

The next scheduled general election is in 2022.

Labour’s Nandy: ‘Strong Support’ For Soft Brexit (9:35 a.m.)

Rank-and-file Labour lawmaker Lisa Nandy said she sees strong support in the Labour Party and the Conservatives for a soft Brexit, and if May tilted towards the center, she could get a consensus around a Brexit deal.

She said she wants May to adopt a plan to stay in a customs union with the EU and to write that into the political declaration portion of her Brexit deal, which describes the future relationship with the EU. That, along with giving Parliament greater say in the negotiations on the future relationship, could mean there’s movement to support a deal, she said.

The views of opposition MPs like Nandy are important, because she’s signaled a willingness to support May’s deal – if the premier compromises. But May’s pledge to quit last month has made it harder, according to Nandy, because Labour fears that any successor could renege on her promises.

Labour Sees ‘Strong Argument’ for New Referendum (9:15 a.m.)

Opposition Labour Party foreign affairs spokeswoman, Emily Thornberry, told Sky News that she sees that while she thinks it’s likely Brexit will go ahead, there’s a "strong argument" to consult the electorate again.

She also warned that Labour may call for a second vote of confidence in May’s administration. She said Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is “trying to bring people together” to find a compromise to replace May’s thrice-defeated deal, and that Britain should leave the bloc but "not go far."

That’s because "in our hearts we want to remain, but the difficulty is we have to square that with democracy," she said. "I think it’s in Britain’s interests to remain in the European Union, without a doubt."

May Faces Cabinet Resignations if She Softens Brexit (Earlier)

Prime Minister Theresa May faces further Cabinet resignations if she accepts a customs union with Europe or persuades Conservative ministers to run in the European Union elections in May, the Sunday Times reported, citing unidentified people. They’ll relay their threat on Sunday, it said.

The paper also reported that more than half of the Conservatives in Parliament sent May a letter backing a no-deal exit from the European Union. The 170 lawmakers -- including Cabinet members -- demanded that she resign by May 22, according to the Times.

On the pro-European wing of her party, six ministers will walk out if May backs a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Telegraph said. Separately, it said Conservatives in Parliament fear their party would be "annihilated" at the polls if May led them in a snap election -- a view backed up by The Mail on Sunday.

The weekend papers are full of reports of maneuvers by MPs including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss to succeed the premier as Tory leader. Other candidates touted include former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.