‘We don’t want to topple Theresa ... honest’

Like the chairman of a struggling football team reassuring an embattled manager, leading Brexiteers

Like the chairman of a struggling football team reassuring an embattled manager, leading Brexiteers have given Theresa May their backing. She must be thrilled Photo: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Leading Tory Brexiteers have dismissed claims of a plot to oust Theresa May over her controversial Chequers blueprint – but do we believe them?

Around 50 Conservative MPs are understood to have attended a meeting of the pro-Brexit European Research Group where a possible leadership challenge was said to have been discussed.

At the launch of the ERG's plan to avoid the return of a hard border in Northern Ireland, leading figures in the group were at pains to stress they were not questioning the Prime Minister's position.

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ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg insisted he was seeking a change of government policy, not a change in leadership.

'I have long said, and repeated again and again, that the policy needs to be changed but I am supporting the person,' he said.

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His comments were echoed by former Brexit secretary David Davis, who quit the government over the Chequers plan which would see Britain maintain a 'common rule book' with the EU for trade in goods and agriculture.

'I disagree with her on one issue - this issue. She should stay in place because we need stability and we need decent government as the backdrop to what we are doing in the coming six months,' he said.

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Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, who also resigned over Chequers and warned earlier this week that up to 80 Tory MPs could vote against it, said they were trying to 'stay off' the leadership issue.

'I think the grave threat to the security and prosperity in the UK is a Marxist Labour Party in government,' he said.

'So, we all need to just be cautious in what we do and what we say, and support Theresa May (and) invite her to change the policy.

'We really aren't getting into the territory now of if she doesn't, because we don't want to be there.'

At the ERG meeting a number of MPs were understood to have said they had already handed letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, while others suggested they could follow suit.

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