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Theresa May will today resist demands from Tory chiefs to set out a timetable for her departure as she prepares one final attempt to win a Commons majority for her Brexit proposals.
The Prime Minister is set to force a vote on her Brexit blueprint in the first week of June – regardless of whether she has agreed a compromise plan with Labour in cross-party talks.
Her chances of victory look slim as Tory Eurosceptics and the DUP restated their opposition to her withdrawal agreement with Brussels, and Labour insisted no deal is in sight with the government.
Steve Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, admitted yesterday that her plans would be “dead” if MPs reject them next month for the fourth time.
Mrs May will meet leaders of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs on Thursday, who have urged her to name a date when she intends to leave Downing Street.
She will effectively ask for a breathing-space of another three weeks as she sets out her proposals for a showdown over her Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) by 7 June.
The exact timing is yet to be confirmed as Mrs May is committed during the first week of June to meet Donald Trump on his state visit to Britain and to attend events commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Labour made clear yesterday that it would not support the WAB without further concessions from ministers. It played down suggestions that the party was considering abstaining in the first vote on the Bill.
The opposition is pressing for Britain to be in a permanent post-Brexit customs union and for a guarantee that any agreement cannot be ripped up by Mrs May’s successor.
A Labour spokesman said: “We are not in the business of getting into a car without knowing where it’s going.”
Heading for defeat
The Eurosceptic MP Owen Paterson, said he would again vote against Mrs May’s deal as “it doesn’t change the essential nature of the withdrawal agreement, which is unacceptable we will have laws imposed on us by 27 different countries where we are not involved”.
The DUP repeated its opposition to the concept of the Irish backstop element of her agreement.
Its deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said: “Unless she can demonstrate something new that addresses the problem of the backstop then it is highly likely her deal will go down to defeat once again.”
Downing Street said efforts were continuing to find a “sustainable” majority for Mrs May’s deal, with discussions involving DUP and Labour MPs as well as Tories.
Asked whether the vote would be considered a “confidence” vote for the Prime Minister, a source said: “That’s not the world that we are currently in, but clearly the significance of this piece of legislation can’t and I suspect won’t be underestimated.”