Theresa May could be planning for a general election in June, according to reports, as the prime minister promised to “battle for Britain” during talks with Brussels.
Downing Street advisers are understood to have drawn up plans to extend Article 50 – the clause which triggered the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, then secure the backing of parliament for a new Brexit deal in April before calling a general election in June this year.
Sources quoted in the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times said the plan would protect the prime minister from being forced out of office by those who want a new leader to negotiate the second stage of the UK’s exit – a new trade deal.
The vote could be held on the 6 June and supporters point to fresh polling showing the Conservatives seven points ahead of the Labour party, indicating Mrs May could win.
It came as the prime minister wrote in the Sunday Telegraph, vowing to “battle for Britain” and secure a new Brexit deal to bring the country together.
She said: “When I return to Brussels I will be battling for Britain and Northern Ireland, I will be armed with a fresh mandate, new ideas and a renewed determination to agree a pragmatic solution that delivers the Brexit the British people voted for, while ensuring there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”
Mrs May added that while Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, did not back her plan in a crunch Commons vote, he does support her bid to win new protections to ensure the backstop deal – a customs plan to avoid a “hard” border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if a free trade deal between the UK and EU is not reached – is not permanent.
Labour backing could be crucial in order to get her deal through the House of Commons.
She wrote: “The clock is ticking, and negotiating the changes MPs want to see will not be easy. But if we stand together and speak with one voice, I believe we can find the right way forward.
“I’m determined to deliver Brexit, and determined to deliver on time – on 29 March 2019. So let’s put aside our differences and focus on getting the deal over the line. Brexit offers great opportunities for our country. It’s up to all of us at Westminster to make it work.”
Downing Street denied claims that aides are planning a general election, calling the reports “completely untrue”.
Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn repeated his call for a snap election during a trip to Scotland.
Speaking on a visit to charities in Glasgow, he said that “the people who are bearing the brunt of nine years of austerity cannot wait years for a general election”.
“They need a general election now,” he added.