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Gove, Pro-Brexit Ministers Are Staying Put: Brexit Update

Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, in London, U.K., on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Theresa May is trying to fend off an attempt to oust her by Conservative Party colleagues.

Key Developments

Pro-Brexit minister Michael Gove confirms he’s not resigning At least 20 Tories known to be demanding no-confidence vote Pound gains 0.4% against the dollar after near 2% plunge Thursday

Euroskeptic Not Sure How Many Letters Are In (11:50 a.m.)

Leading Tory euroskeptic Steve Baker is said to have told his colleagues he thinks the number of MPs formally expressing “no confidence” in May has reached the threshold needed to trigger a vote on ousting her. But Baker told Bloomberg that only Graham Brady, chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, who oversees the process, will know the true number. “Only Graham knows,” Baker said. “My count is bound to be inaccurate.”

A vote of no confidence in the Tory leader will be held if Brady receives 48 letters calling for one from Conservative MPs. At least 20 are known to have submitted, or plan to submit letters, according to public statements.

Leadership Challenge Against May? 20 Letters Known; 48 Needed

Gove Stays Put (11:06 a.m.)

Gove, the environment secretary, confirms he’s staying in the Cabinet, saying “it’s absolutely vital that we focus on getting the right deal in the future.” He’s the minister whose resignation would have been most destabilizing to May.

“I’ve had a very good morning in a series of meetings with my colleagues here at Defra, just making sure that we have the right policies on the environment, on farming and on fisheries for the future,” he said in a statement. “And I’m also looking forward to continuing to work with all my government colleagues, and all my colleagues in Parliament in order to make sure that we get the best future for Britain.”

Praise From Barnier

Well, at least Theresa May has one supporter. In a behind-closed-doors debrief of EU27 envoys in Brussels this morning, EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said: “we have to pay homage to the courage and tenacity of Theresa May given the difficulties she has with the Withdrawal Agreement,” according to one of our sources in the room.

That said, the negotiator signaled that the bloc couldn’t and won’t offer any more concessions. “Whatever the internal difficulties in the UK we have a duty to preserve the four freedoms and our values,” he added. Crucially, Barnier asked national governments to refrain from comments and interventions that could further sour the atmosphere in London.

Brexiteer Ministers Are Sticking with May (10:49 a.m.)

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Liam Fox and Penny Mordaunt are also staying in the Cabinet, at least for now. And Andrea Leadsom, another Brexiteer, said in public she was staying. The Times said on Twitter the ministers took a collective decision not to quit.

Whips Convene (10:10 a.m.)

Government whips have been told to convene in Westminster, according to a person familiar with the situation. But it shouldn’t be seen as a sign the threshold to trigger a no-confidence vote has been reached, the person said.

Why else could they be meeting? There are lots of possible reasons: They could be planning an operation to rally support for May from wavering Tories, for example.

May Signals No Free Vote on Deal (8:30 a.m.)

May signaled that all Tories including ministers will be ordered to vote for the Brexit deal. That’s not a surprise but Penny Mordaunt — a pro-Brexit minister — has been calling on the premier to allow MPs to vote with their consciences. The pair met last night.

A “free vote,” as it’s known, would allow Mordaunt and others to vote against May’s deal. But without that freedom, they will have to quit the government in order to oppose the Brexit agreement when it’s put to Parliament.

May was also asked about speculation Environment Secretary Michael Gove will quit. She said she had a “very good conversation” with him last night. She refused to answer a question about whether she asked him to be Brexit Secretary, and said she’ll appoint someone to that role in the next day or two.

May: We Are Still Working with the DUP (8:10 a.m.)

May told LBC listeners that she had not had a “testy” exchange with Arlene Foster, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her minority government. Foster and her colleagues have been highly critical of May’s proposed Brexit deal, because it imposes a different set of rules on Northern Ireland. The DUP cares most about ensuring the region stays fully part of the United Kingdom, with the same laws and business rules. “We are still working with the DUP,” May said. But she accepted she had to try to persuade the party’s members of Parliament to back her plan.

Earlier, the Telegraph reported that Foster was demanding May be replaced with a new leader, as the price for continuing to support the minority Conservative government. If the DUP pulls out of the “confidence and supply” arrangement with the Tories, the government is likely to fall.

The pound is up 0.4 percent. DM

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