FORTY Tory MPs have agreed to sign a letter of no confidence in Theresa May after EU negotiators signalled trade talks would be put off until March unless the UK agrees to settle its Brexit divorce bill and reports emerged that some European figures expect May’s government to collapse.

The revelation indicates a growing sense of unhappiness with the Prime Minister among her own MPs and leaves potential rebels eight short of the number required to oust May and force a leadership contest.

It also emerged key Cabinet Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove sent a letter dictating their Brexit demands to May.

A Sunday newspaper said the two ministers had demanded that any transitional arrangements must end on June 30 2021. The leaked letter, sent to the PM last month, also appeared to make a thinly veiled attack on Chancellor Philip Hammond, who backed Remain and wants a softer Brexit, for lacking “sufficient energy” in preparing for the UK’s future outside the bloc.

And in a sinister twist, the two men also urged the Prime Minister to ensure members of her top team fall behind their Brexit plans by “clarifying their minds”.

A senior government source reportedly said the Foreign Secretary and Environment Secretary had conducted a “soft coup” and described May as “their Downing Street hostage”.

The letter, obtained by a Sunday newspaper, states: “Your approach is governed by sensible pragmatism. That does not in any way dilute our ambition to be a fully independent self-governing country by the time of the next election.

“If we are to counter those who wish to frustrate that end, there are ways of underlining your resolve.

“We are profoundly worried that in some parts of government the current preparations are not proceeding with anything like sufficient energy. We have heard it argued by some that we cannot start preparations on the basis of ‘No Deal’ because that would undermine our obligation of ‘sincere co-operation’ with the EU. If taken seriously, that would leave us over a barrel in 2021.”

No 10 said it did not comment on leaks and neither Johnson nor Gove commented.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for May to “govern or go” and demanded Johnson to be sacked for “undermining our country” and “putting our citizens at risk”.

In an article for a Sunday broadsheet, he wrote: “Continuing uncertainty about the government’s approach to Brexit is now the biggest risk facing our country. The Prime Minister must end the confusion, take on the ‘no-deal’ extremists in her government and back a jobs-first Brexit for Britain.”

And in a statement to another newspaper, he called for Johnson to be sacked: “We’ve put up with Johnson embarrassing and undermining our country with his incompetence and colonial throwback views and putting our citizens at risk for long enough. It’s time for him to go.”

Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s Foreign Affairs and Europe spokesman, said May is now “Prime Minister only by title”.

“If it wasn’t clear before, it is now – Theresa May has lost all authority and credibility in government,” he said.

“The revelation leading Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are now brazenly able to dictate their hard Brexit demands over a month ago goes to show that they think they can say and do as they please, knowing fine well Theresa May is powerless to act. “

Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary David Davis said he was “quite certain” May would remain Prime Minister throughout Brexit, adding that he would be “very surprised” if EU leaders were preparing for the fall of May’s government.


Vast majority of Scots businesses against leaving the EU

ONLY 10 per cent of Scottish businesses back leaving the EU, according to research by two former SNP MPs. 

Michelle Thomson and Roger Mullin, who have set up a new firm, Momentous Change, yesterday published a report on the attitudes of businesses to leaving the bloc. It was based on interviews and a survey of more than 160 senior business figures. 

“Based on the responses thus far, it is estimated 10 per cent are in favour of Brexit,” the report said. It found the top demand from businesses to the UK Government was to establish transition arrangements and make explicit which matters will be devolved.

The key ask of the Scottish Government was to state how 
it would seek to use any new devolved powers.