May's early holiday plan for MPs at risk as Tories threaten another rebellion

PUBLISHED: 13:02 17 July 2018 | UPDATED: 13:03 17 July 2018

Prime minister Theresa May

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Theresa May is facing the possibility of another Commons defeat after attempting to bring forward MPs' summer holidays in the middle of the latest Brexit political crisis.

MPs are due to rise for the summer recess on July 24 but a motion tabled last night would see the Commons rise on Thursday, with a vote pencilled in for this evening.

But Labour is understood to have instructed its MPs to vote against the move and several pro-European Tories have already indicated they will oppose any attempt to cut short the term with so much work to do on Brexit.

A strong rebellion on the Conservative benches could lead to an embarrassing defeat for a government currently assailed on all sides over its plans for leaving the EU.

Sarah Wollaston, a member of the Health Select Committee, said the committee would sit as planned next Tuesday.

She tweeted: "I will not be voting for an early recess. @CommonsHealth will be sitting as usual on Tuesday 24th to hear from the Secretary of State."

Pro-EU Tory Phillip Lee, who quit as a minister over Brexit, condemned any thought of an earlier break as "shameful" at a "crucial time".

Asked whether the government intended to press ahead with a vote on bringing the recess date forward, Mrs May's official spokesman said: "The government came forward with this proposal following discussions with other parties. We are considering all of the representations which have been received."

He added: "It is a non-sitting Friday this week and there is no substantive government business next week."

A Commons motion entered by leader of the House Andrea Leadsom last night says that "this House at its rising on Thursday 19 July 2018 do adjourn until Tuesday 4 September 2018", without allowing a debate by MPs.

An early recess might not stop a potentially stinging resignation statement from Boris Johnson.

The ex-foreign secretary used his Daily Telegraph column yesterday to ominously say: "I will resist - for now - the temptation to bang on about Brexit".

But even if the government won the vote, Mr Johnson would still have another few days to make a Commons statement that could have echoes of Geoffrey Howe's devastating resignation speech after quitting Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet in a row over Europe.

Nicholas Soames and Nick Boles were among Conservative MPs who also indicated on social media that they would oppose the move to finish early.

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell said such a vote, listed for Tuesday evening, showed the government was in "chaos".

He tweeted: "Government's plan to close Parliament on Thursday and send MPs home early for summer is because Theresa May is fearful of Tory MPs hanging around plotting against her. It shows what chaos this Government is in.

"Let me make it clear that I will be voting against breaking up early."

His colleague, Labour's Paula Sherriff, said she had "important meetings" scheduled for next week and would vote against the move.

She tweeted: "Govt are running scared and using silly tactics to avoid plotting by their own MPs."

Labour MP Mary Creagh also threw her weight behind a no vote, saying "this is no time for a holiday", while SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford accused Mrs May of wanting an early recess "because she is running scared".

Shadow Foreign Office minister Fabian Hamilton, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best For Britain, said the government was "running scared and now know they might not even have the votes for this scam".

He said: "They are trying to find a way out of Parliament early to avoid a no confidence vote in the prime minister.

"This is May's recess chicken run.

"This government is falling fast, which is why many MPs will be opposing the motion to end this parliamentary term early and we will not be running away from our responsibilities in Parliament at this crucial time.”

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