James Forsyth

If May promises to go, will it be enough to win over Tory rebels?

If May promises to go, will it be enough to win over Tory rebels?
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Theresa May goes to see the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs at 5pm this evening. Speculation is rife that she will use the meeting to announce a timetable for her departure, though there’s no official line from Number 10 on this.

I understand that Tory switchers are being told that Theresa May will go if the withdrawal agreement bill gets Royal assent, which would have to be by May 22


. This would, obviously, require meaningful vote 3 to pass – though, as Katy saysJohn Bercow is not keen on the vote happening at all.

If May does set out a timetable, then I suspect a good number of Tory Brexit rebels will move into the government column. Even without it, there are already some coming over. Conor Burns, who was Boris Johnson’s PPS, told me earlier that he’s now backing the deal as the combination of the Letwin amendment and the parliamentary arithmetic means that it is now the most meaningful Brexit available.

If May promises to go, then it is clear that there’ll be change in personnel and thus policy for the second phase of the Brexit talks. This should help to deliver the bulk of the Tory Brexit rebels. The sense in government is that if it begins to look like the numbers are there, then the DUP might more seriously consider things such as the Stormont lock. But the government still needs an awful lot to go right to be in with even a fighting chance of winning a meaningful vote by the end of this week.