New prime minister could 'chicken out' of putting Brexit plan to Commons until autumn, under Tory plans

Theresa May thought to be planning valedictory appearance at prime minister’s questions in late July – delaying her replacement’s arrival

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 23 June 2019 18:29
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Theresa May: Highs and lows as Prime Minister

The Conservatives are under fire for a shock plan that would allow the new prime minister to “chicken out” of putting their Brexit plan to the House of Commons until the autumn.

Opposition MPs spoke out after aides to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were told the winner of the Tory leadership race would not move into No 10 on Tuesday 23 July, as widely expected.

Instead, Theresa May proposes to make a final appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions the following day before resigning – just one day before MPs depart for their long summer recess on 25 July, they were reportedly told.

Labour has vowed to table a vote of no confidence, which could be staged on that Thursday, but, otherwise, there would no reason for the new prime minister to appear before MPs.

Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat leadership contender, told The Independent: “It would be outrageous if the new prime minister chickened out of facing the Commons before the summer recess.

“Three years on from the referendum, a new prime minister can’t just slink off to the beach. We need to know the plan on Brexit.”

And Chris Bryant, a senior Labour MP, said: “Neville Chamberlain tried that trick of sidelining parliament with a long summer recess in 1939 and it didn't end well.

“It would be a disgraceful dereliction of duty to send parliament off the moment there’s a new prime minister and I confidently predict the House would vote against the summer recess motion if they tried that trick.”

The Conservative Party has refused to answer enquiries from The Independent about Ms May’s departure plans, beyond saying it would be “in the week beginning” 22 July.

However, Brandon Lewis, the party chairman, said the resignation could be at “the end” of that week – while Mel Stride, the Commons leader, refused to guarantee the new leader would be in place before the recess.

Parliament is not due to return until 3 September, for under two weeks, before another three-week break for the party conference season.

If, as in previous years, the Commons does not sit again until around 8 October, there will be little more than three weeks until the current Brexit deadline of Halloween.

Both Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt have threatened to let the UK crash out of the EU on that date, if they have failed to strike an improved deal – while EU leaders have insisted there will be no renegotiation.

Both David Cameron and Tony Blair enjoyed a swansong prime minister’s questions, at which MPs paid tributes – and, in the Labour leader’s case, applauded.

Ms May is known to be keen to point to a “legacy” beyond her Brexit failure, even to the point of a bust-up with her chancellor over her attempt to spend billions in her final days.

Labour could yet back away from a no-confidence vote in July, given it is unlikely to succeed while Mr Johnson – if he wins – is arguing he will seek a deal to avoid a crash out.

It could also backfire by giving the incomer a boost, while rebel Tories are more likely to join a no-confidence vote in the autumn, if a no-deal Brexit is fast approaching.

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