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May faces a ‘show trial’ with MPs after leaked papers suggest Brexit limbo could be ‘long running’

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May enters the lion’s den: PM faces a ‘show trial’ with her rebellious MPs amid threats of never ending Brexit limbo but Eurosceptics claim No 10 is RIGGING it to cover up deep divides

Theresa May is entering the lion’s den tonight as she confronts her rebellious MPs over Brexit. 

She is attending a meeting of the 1922 Committee in Parliament days after being warned to ‘bring her own noose’ to a ‘show trial’. 

But Brexiteers claimed the meeting was being ‘rigged’ and descending into a ‘PR farce’ before the showdown even began.  

Nadine Dorries claimed the whips were planting questions and organising a noisy show of support while Andrew Bridgen accused colleagues of ‘hypocrisy’ as he predicted private critics of the PM would turn out to applaud her in public.

Former Brexit Minister Steve Baker said despite the organised shows of support he wanted to hear what Mrs May was doing to stop the ‘great ship of state of this country’ from ‘heading towards the rocks’.   

The stakes were raised ahead of the meeting after leaked documents revealed Cabinet ministers have been advised Britain could be left in Brexit limbo for years.  

The documents say there could be a ‘long running’ transition period that is renewed annually – potentially leaving Britain in the Brexit departure lounge for years.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox warned reportedly warned Cabinet extension risked Britain being stuck in ‘Dante’s first circle of hell’, better known as limbo.   

Rumours are swirling in Westminster that the chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady holds almost enough letters from Tory MPs to order a vote of no confidence. He must call a vote if 48 letters are sent.  

Brexiteers claimed the 'show trial' of Theresa May was 'rigged' and descending into a 'PR farce' tonight as the Prime Minister prepares to confront her MPs 

Brexiteers claimed the ‘show trial’ of Theresa May was ‘rigged’ and descending into a ‘PR farce’ tonight as the Prime Minister prepares to confront her MPs 

Before the high stakes meeting even began MP Nadine Dorries claimed (pictured) the whips were planting questions and organising a noisy show of support

Before the high stakes meeting even began MP Nadine Dorries claimed (pictured) the whips were planting questions and organising a noisy show of support

Andrew Bridgen (pictured today on Sky News), an arch-critic of Mrs May, predicted today she would fail to reassure the party and would face a vote within days

Andrew Bridgen (pictured today on Sky News), an arch-critic of Mrs May, predicted today she would fail to reassure the party and would face a vote within days

Ms Dorries tweeted: ‘PM attending ’22 meeting. Already rigged by the whips.

Britain draws up plans to buy or lease a flotilla of lorry FERRIES to fight a no deal blockade

There are fears that if there is a sudden no deal Brexit traffic through the Channel Tunnel would collapse for months.

There are fears that if there is a sudden no deal Brexit traffic through the Channel Tunnel would collapse for months.

Britain has drawn up a contingency plan to buy or lease a flotilla of lorry ferries to ensure food and medicine can still get past a no deal blockade of the Channel.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling briefed the Cabinet yesterday on the extraordinary backup plan.

There are fears that if there is a sudden no deal Brexit traffic through the Channel Tunnel would collapse for months. Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said the normal Dover-Calais route could be at 12 per cent capacity for six months.

Mr Grayling told ministers the scheme is called Government Owned or Operated Logistics and would move goods via the Ports of London, Tilbury and Liverpool.

The chilling reports, revealed today by ITV’s Robert Peston, come amid claims French President Emmaneul Macron would deliberately block imports in no deal.  

‘Loyalist Chequers supporters will be dispersed about the room to desk bang and cheer.

‘The whips will communicate via WhatsApp. The first questioner will already have been agreed and the questions planted.

‘It’s a PR farce.’ 

Mr Bridgen lashed ‘hypocritical’ colleagues who would cheer Mrs May tonight before criticising her in private.

Mr Bridgen even claimed Downing Street was behind viscous anonymous briefing against Mrs May at the weekend. 

He told Sky News: ‘I have thought about it and the only people that suited – it was very unhelpful and bad politics and I have a lot of sympathy with the Prime Minister – is No 10.

‘I would not be surprised if No 10 put those words out themselves knowing exactly how the press and the public would react.’ 

Amid the growing drama in Westminster, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament Brexit was being handled with ‘staggering incompetence’ that was pushing the country into no deal.  

The current fury against Mrs May is fuelled by both her and the EU accepting the concept of an extension to the Brexit transition period at last week’s fractious summit in Brussels.

Current transition agreements oblige the UK to keep following all EU rules, including on free movement, without having a say on how they are written. 

The Prime Minister has insisted it would only last for a ‘few months’ and in any event would end ‘well before’ the next election in 2022.

Chief whip Julian Smith was in Downing Street this afternoon ahead of the crucial meeting between Mrs May and MPs tonigth 

Chief whip Julian Smith was in Downing Street this afternoon ahead of the crucial meeting between Mrs May and MPs tonigth 

Also spotted in Downing Street this afternoon were Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (left) and Environment Secretary Michael Gove (right) 

Home Secretary Sajid Javid was also among afternoon arrivals at No 10 Downing Street (pictured) 

Home Secretary Sajid Javid was also among afternoon arrivals at No 10 Downing Street (pictured) 

But a paper to ministers warns the plan ‘could, in theory, lead to a long-running IP (implementation period)’ with annual extensions on a ‘rolling basis’, The Times reveals today.

Any such threat will alarm and enrage Eurosceptics who fear Mrs May’s plans will park Britain in the Brexit departure lounge indefinitely.

Downing Street insisted the leak was a ‘partial reflection’ of advice given to ministers and did not reflect either decisions taken or the PM’s position. 

Cabinet yesterday saw stormy rows between ministers at the state of the negotiation, which now turns on how to resolve the so-called Irish backstop.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox warned Britain risks being left in Dante’s ‘first circle of hell’ – better known as limbo – under the plans.

The Prime Minister shot a look of disgust (pictured) and then ignored the answer after Susan Elan Jones as she quipped she might not be able to answer questions about next week's Budget

The Prime Minister shot a look of disgust (pictured) and then ignored the answer after Susan Elan Jones as she quipped she might not be able to answer questions about next week’s Budget

Labour MP Susan Elan Jones ridiculed Theresa May during PMQs today by asking if she would survive until Monday's Budget 

Labour MP Susan Elan Jones ridiculed Theresa May during PMQs today by asking if she would survive until Monday’s Budget 

Rumours are swirling in Westminster that the chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady (file) holds almost enough letters from Tory MPs to order a vote of no confidence

Rumours are swirling in Westminster that the chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady (file) holds almost enough letters from Tory MPs to order a vote of no confidence

Ministers, including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt according to reports, are desperate for Mrs May to negotiate a unilateral way for Britain to escape the backstop, which is supposed to govern what happens to the Irish border between the transition period and the start of a full trade deal.

Ministers also heard blood-curdling threats that Britain might have to buy a fleet on lorry ferries to ensure food and medicine can get past a Brexit blockade of Calais.

There are fears that if there is a sudden no deal Brexit traffic through the Channel Tunnel would collapse for months.

There were claims the normal Dover-Calais route could be at 12 per cent capacity for six months.

Mr Grayling told ministers the scheme is called Government Owned or Operated Logistics and would move goods via the Ports of London, Tilbury and Liverpool.

The chilling reports, revealed today by ITV’s Robert Peston, come amid claims French President Emmaneul Macron would deliberately block imports in no deal.  

Trade Secretary Liam Fox was among ministers in Downing Street today (pictured) 

Trade Secretary Liam Fox was among ministers in Downing Street today (pictured) 

Chancellor Philip Hammond was seen heading to the Commons today (pictured) as Mrs May braces for a bruising 1922 committee 

Chancellor Philip Hammond was seen heading to the Commons today (pictured) as Mrs May braces for a bruising 1922 committee 

Downing Street aides including chief of staff Gavin Barwell will hope tonight's meeting proves a show of strength for the PM 

Downing Street aides including chief of staff Gavin Barwell will hope tonight’s meeting proves a show of strength for the PM 

And Cabinet Office Minster David Lidingtion is said to have warned Cabinet a no deal could trigger a financial crisis as severe as ‘Black Wednesday’ in 1992, where falling out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) saw Bank of England interests rates spike to 15 per cent. 

What is the final issue in the Brexit talks?

Theresa May insists the Brexit deal is 95 per cent done – but that the final issue of the Irish border backstop may be the hardest part.

The backstop is about what will happen to the Irish border if the Brexit transition ends before a final UK-EU trade deal is in place.

Transition is currently due to end in December 2020.  

The EU is still insisting that in the absence of a full trade deal, Northern Ireland should stay in the EU customs union while the rest of the UK leaves to ensure the Irish border remains open.

Britain says the whole UK should stay in customs rules for a temporary period so there is no border in the Irish Sea. 

The EU says it is not opposed to this in principle but  insists it cannot be negotiated in time for the divorce to be struck this autumn.

As a compromise, Brussels is suggesting a legal promise to negotiate the UK-wide version after the Northern Ireland-only version goes into the divorce – but Britain has said no. 

Following the grim warnings, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was ordered to bring weekly updates on no deal preparations to the Cabinet.  

Britain’s preferred version of the backstop is for a UK-wide temporary customs union with the EU – but this would block new trade deals and is unacceptable to Brexiteers as a long term settlement. 

As well as exit mechanism, the talks are still stalled because the EU wants a Northern Ireland-only backstop, at least in the divorce treaty. 

Following the Cabinet leak, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘This is nothing more than a partial reflection of advice to ministers, and not of decisions taken.

‘The prime minister made her position absolutely clear in the House of Commons on Monday.

‘As the PM said then, we do not believe any extension to the implementation period will be necessary, and in any event we would have to be out of it well before the end of the parliament.

‘We would not accept a position in which the UK, having negotiated in good faith an agreement which prevents a hard border in Northern Ireland, finds itself indefinitely locked into an alternative, inferior arrangement against our will.’ 

In other developments today, a former Labour minister claimed up to 45 Labour MPs could defy Jeremy Corbyn and vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal if it is ‘reasonable’.

Up to 45 Labour MPs could defy Jeremy Corbyn and vote for Theresa May's Brexit deal if it is 'reasonable',  former minister Caroline Flint (file image) claimed today

Up to 45 Labour MPs could defy Jeremy Corbyn and vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal if it is ‘reasonable’, former minister Caroline Flint (file image) claimed today

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands yesterday) has vowed to vote down any deal which does not meet Labour's six tests 

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands yesterday) has vowed to vote down any deal which does not meet Labour’s six tests 

Caroline Flint said the Labour leadership’s six tests for a Brexit deal were ‘disingenuous’ and designed to be failed.

A major rebellion could be a get out of jail card for the Prime Minister who faces a major revolt on her own side.

There are now 50 Tory MPs publicly signed up to the ‘Stand Up 4 Brexit’ social media campaign vowing to vote down a deal based on Mrs May’s Chequers blueprint.  

Ms Flint told the Yorkshire Post: ‘There are a number of Labour MPs who feel if there’s a reasonable deal on the table, if you’re going to say no you need some bloody good reasons why if we’re going to end up with no deal.

‘We had 15 vote against the EEA, the Norway option, I think you could double or triple the number of MPs who have concerns.’ 

Ukip MEP Nigel Farage denounced the UK negotiating team under Olly Robbins as an ‘enemy within’ attempting to sabotage Brexit and said Britain was heading for humiliation unless the Conservative Party got rid of Theresa May.

Ukip MEP Nigel Farage (pictured at the European Parliament today) denounced the UK negotiating team under Olly Robbins as an 'enemy within' attempting to sabotage Brexit

Ukip MEP Nigel Farage (pictured at the European Parliament today) denounced the UK negotiating team under Olly Robbins as an ‘enemy within’ attempting to sabotage Brexit

Donald Trusk said Brexiteers are '100 per cent responsible' for the Irish border impasse 

Donald Trusk said Brexiteers are ‘100 per cent responsible’ for the Irish border impasse 

Speaking to the European Parliament today, Mr Farage thanked Mr Tusk for ‘confirming that it was Theresa May that asked for a one-year extension to the transition period’.

Dismissing the threat of a hard border in Ireland as a ‘red herring’ which would never come to pass, Mr Farage told MEPs: ‘The problem is that there is a rogue element in these negotiations, a group of people who don’t wish to see a solution, who put up a brick wall to stop us breaking free.

‘It is not your chief negotiator Michel Barnier, it is actually the British civil service, Olly Robbins’ team.

‘They signed up years ago to the European dream. They have been happy to take their orders from Brussels, they are now out to sabotage Brexit. They are indeed the enemy within.’  

The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt told MEPs: ‘We are now in a battle of the figures. Mrs May says 95% has been agreed, Michel Barnier says 90% has been agreed. I know Britain has always had difficulties with the metric system.

‘If it is 90 per cent or 95 per cent or 99 per cent, if there is no solution for the Irish border, for our Parliament it is 0 per cent that is agreed at the moment.

‘We need agreement on the Irish border. The Good Friday Agreement must be protected.’

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) is said to have warned Cabinet Britain risks being left in Dante's 'first circle of hell' - better known as limbo 

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) is said to have warned Cabinet Britain risks being left in Dante’s ‘first circle of hell’ – better known as limbo 

Ministers, including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt according to reports, are desperate for Mrs May to negotiate a unilateral way for Britain to escape the backstop

Ministers, including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt according to reports, are desperate for Mrs May to negotiate a unilateral way for Britain to escape the backstop

How can Theresa May be ousted under Tory rules?  

A Tory leadership contest can be called in one of two ways – if the leader resigns or if MPs force and win a vote of no confidence in them.

Calling votes of no confidence is the responsibility of the chairman of the 1922 Committee, which includes all backbench Tory MPs.

Chairman Graham Brady is obliged to call a vote if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to him calling for one – currently 48 MPs. 

The process is secret and only Mr Brady knows how many letters he has received.

The no-confidence vote is purely on whether the leader should stay in place or not, rather than a contest.

Crucially, if the incumbent receives more votes in support than opposed they cannot be challenged for 12 months.

That procedure was last used in 2003 when Iain Duncan Smith was removed as Tory leader. 

If the leader is ousted, any MP is eligible to stand in the subsequent competition.

Conservative MPs hold a series of ballots to whittle the list of contenders down to two, with the lowest placed candidate dropping out in each round.

The final two candidates are then offered to the Tory membership at large for an election. 

Some activists have called for changes so it is easier for contenders to reach the final stage.

They have suggested that the membership should get to choose between any candidates who get support from at least 20 other MPs.

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