The Prime Minister told her European counterparts that she could not budge from her request for a short extension without further driving further division within the Government’s top team. According to a senior EU official, Mrs May claimed she could never have asked for a long Brexit delay because of Cabinet divisions. Instead, she suggested that she would accept the bloc’s offer of a six-month extension to its Article 50 exit clause if they allowed Britain the opportunity to cut the period short.
The official said: “She was loyal to her Cabinet but made it clear that as long the delay could be terminated that would be acceptable to her.”
Mrs May also reassured EU leaders about the possibility of Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson leading Britain to disrupt the bloc’s decision-making during any extension.
“She made the point that the UK was a serious country and we should not get distracted by some non-members of the Government that seemed to be trying to create the opposite impression,” the official said.
Brexiteer Cabinet ministers are not expected to resign despite anger at the Prime Minister opting to delay the divorce until October 31.
Mrs May had previously promised her top team that she wouldn’t endure a delay to Brexit longer than June 30.
After her decision in Brussels, the Prime Minister faced pressure heaped on her by her own party.
Iain Duncan Smith said: “Given this latest acceptance of an Article 50 delay, she has to name a date for her departure now.”
Former Brexit secretary David Davis also signalled a potential mutiny. He told the BBC that he doesn’t believe Mrs May will last in office until the autumn.
He said: “The pressure on her to go will increase dramatically, I suspect, now.”
Mr Rees-Mogg said: I don’t think it’s a good idea and it is not delivering on the referendum result. People expected to leave on March 29 and here we are heading towards Halloween. There’s some symbolism in that I think.”
“I thought the prime minister said a few weeks ago that she wouldn’t agree to any extension and now we are getting quite a long one.”
Mrs May vowed that should would ensure Britain can will leave the EU “as soon as possible” after agreeing a six-month delay to Brexit in the early hours of this morning.
She added: “The choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear. So we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach a consensus on a deal that is in the national interest.”
Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, poured cold water on the possibility of Brexit being abandoned after the delay.
She said: “We have to use this time to make sure that we deliver the Brexit we are all looking for, that we work closely with the EU and that they are genuinely helping to make sure we do deliver on the referendum — there won’t be any changing our minds about that.”