Theresa May could be set for an awkward climbdown to avoid a government walkout over Brexit.
The prime minister could be forced to delay Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU, a suggestion she pushed back on yesterday, amid reports that several senior ministers are prepared to quit.
Three cabinet ministers – Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke – have publicly indicated that they could support a cross-party amendment to give parliament the power to stop the UK from leaving without a deal, and The Times reports that the trio will resign if Mrs May does not guarantee that Brexit can be delayed if her deal is rejected again.
The pound was up by nearly a cent on Tuesday to just under $1.32 on speculation about a delay to Brexit.
Sterling was also at its highest level versus the euro since May 2017.
With little more than a month to go until Britain is scheduled to leave the bloc, the prime minister is under pressure to push back the exit date after delaying a critical House of Commons vote on her withdrawal agreement.
Mrs May has said MPs will not be able to take part in a so-called meaningful vote until 12 March, which is only 17 days before Brexit is due to finally happen.
With other ministers ready to join, including Richard Harrington, Claire Perry and Margot James, it is anticipated that the prime minister could be willing to push Brexit back by two months.
Mr Harrington, Ms Perry and Ms James have written in the Daily Mail to urge Mrs May to allow for an amendment that would give MPs the power to demand Brexit be delayed if no deal is in place by 13 March.
They wrote: “It is a commitment that would be greeted with relief by the vast majority of MPs, businesses and their employees. We implore the government to take that step this week.
“But if the prime minister is not able to make this commitment, we will have no choice other than to join MPs of all parties in the House of Commons, including fellow ministers, in acting in the national interest to prevent a disaster in less than five weeks’ time that we may regret forever.”
There are fears that Britain will end up crashing out of the EU without an agreement if her deal is rejected by parliament, which prompted Labour to make a surprise announcement that it would back a second referendum to “prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country”.
Mrs May will hold a cabinet meeting later today ahead of giving a statement to MPs, with expectations growing that she will offer a compromise deal to prevent any resignations.
According to the Mail, Mrs May will have to agree to a potential delay to Article 50 – the clause of an EU treaty that triggered Brexit – to avoid as many as 15 ministers quitting.
Mrs May has repeatedly refused to even countenance any such delay in public and has said she remains committed to getting her deal through parliament.
British negotiators will return to Brussels on Tuesday to continue talks to secure changes to the withdrawal agreement in the hope that it will pass, with the Irish backstop continuing to be the sticking point.
European leaders – who are open to delaying Brexit – have said the backstop, which is designed to prevent a hard border on the island, cannot be altered, but in its current state it is unlikely to be accepted by Tory Brexiteers.
With Tory Remainers and opposition MPs set to reject the agreement on principle, the odds are firmly stacked against the prime minister ahead of a crucial few days in Westminster.
Beyond the debate later today, Labour will also this week put forward its alternative Brexit plan for MPs to vote on.
The party will also back an amendment from Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory MP Oliver Letwin aimed at preventing no deal from happening.
Jeremy Corbyn told a meeting of Labour MPs on Monday that the party will support or put forward another amendment in favour of a second referendum in order to avoid such a scenario.
“The prime minister is recklessly running down the clock, in an attempt to force MPs to choose between her botched deal and a disastrous no-deal,” he told them.
“We cannot and will not accept.”
Before Mrs May addresses MPs later, the government is expected to publish previously unseen cabinet papers setting out the dangers of a no deal Brexit.
Earlier on Monday, the Association of British Insurers became the latest business body to warn of the potential consequences of quitting the EU without a deal.
It said no deal would be an “unforgivable act of economic and social self-harm”.