In Brief

‘Tortoise’ Theresa May facing no-confidence vote, MPs warn

After Hammond gaffe, both sides of Brexit debate are furious with PM

Theresa May is dangerously close to a no-confidence vote over her handling of Brexit, with one Conservative MP comparing her to a “tortoise” and another saying she is more “vulnerable” than ever before.

May is under attack from “both wings of her own party”, says The Guardian. Her leadership is “openly questioned by MPs on all sides of her party”, according to The Daily Telegraph, and the Daily Mail has the Prime Minister in the grip of “Tory civil war”.

After a weekend of discontent, the Telegraph this morning published a series of WhatsApp messages that “reveals the increasing acrimony over Brexit at the most senior levels of the Conservative Party, amid growing calls for Theresa May to intervene and show more leadership”.

The paper reports that “around 40” Tory MPs have written letters calling for a no-confidence vote, which is “just short” of the 48 required to trigger one, while six “senior Eurosceptic Tories” have voiced concerns about her Chancellor, Philip Hammond.

According to The Guardian, May has disappointed senior members of the party by deciding not to set out a fresh vision for Brexit, clarifying her position. Instead she is to make a “more limited speech” next month on security co-operation after the UK leaves the EU.

Philip Hammond The latest unrest was triggered by the Chancellor, who said last week in Davos that Brexit would result in EU and UK economic policy diverging only “very modestly”. This was anathema to pro-Brexit Tories, who rallied in opposition, prompting Downing Street to disavow the remark.

Now, says The Guardian, pro-EU Tory MPs are “alarmed” by this show of strength by their opponents within the party. They want May to set out her stall and unify the party behind an acceptably soft Brexit.

Former Tory minister and pro-EU MP Rob Halfon told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “We need to have less policy-making by tortoise and (more) policy-making by lion. Because we have to be radical. We have to stop seeing politics in transactional terms.”

Potential successors to May are already jockeying for position, according to PA, which says a “briefing war” took place between Boris Johnson and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson this weekend.

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