BORIS Johnson will hold a crunch vote on extending UK lockdown laws on Thursday as Tory MPs pile pressure on him to free the country faster.
The PM wants to extend the Government's powers under the Coronavirus Act until October, but is facing a rebellion from his own backbenchers.
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Ministers insist the rules need to stay on the books for longer so policies like the furlough scheme and Covid sick pay can stay in place.
But some lockdown-sceptic MPs fear the extension could be used to delay the end of restrictions on our daily lives.
Dozens of Tory backbenchers are expected to rebel in the vote, but the PM should still command a majority thanks to Labour support.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the opposition will support the Government.
He said ministers must be driven by the data" and they "have to have the power to impose restrictions where necessary" in future.
But furious Tory MPs are still piling pressure on Boris to commit to ending the lockdown sooner.
Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said Labour's support would give No 10 a "blank cheque" to keep restrictions in place.
He added: "Someone has to stand up and ask the reasonable questions about why significant powers are going to be extended until October – three months beyond the end of the roadmap."
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the powerful group of MPs, said he will vote "squarely against" the "excessive and disproportionate" extension of powers.
He told the Telegraph: "With so many vulnerable people now vaccinated, people may ask why the restrictions the Government is bringing in this coming week are tougher than they were last summer when we didn’t have a vaccine.
“The time has come for this dark chapter in our history to come to an end and for us to reclaim our freedoms once and for all."
Ex minister Esther McVey accused the Government of "muddled thinking" and said extending the current rules "gives the state unprecedented, disproportionate, extreme and wholly unnecessary powers".
She said: "With all this good news, as the weather gets warmer and as the Easter holidays approach, people are asking why on earth the Government is trying to implement a tougher set of restrictions than we had last summer.
"Not only are we abandoning the science and denting public confidence and trust in both politics and the vaccine, but we are destroying livelihoods, damaging people’s mental health and welfare, and it’s our disabled and disadvantaged young people that suffer most.
“We’ve had one of the fastest vaccination rollouts in the world. The next logical step is for us to have one of the fastest unlocking and the swiftest of economic recoveries."
Influential backbencher Mark Francois declared that he will "vote against" any "additional motion to extend the Coronavirus Act provisions for up to another six months".
And Windsor MP Adam Afriyie added: "I fear that some minds in government are focusing on arbitrary dates rather than looking at the reality of the data on hospitalisations and deaths, which is what we were told in January would determine the unlocking."
Under the PM's roadmap – which some MPs already think is too cautious – almost all restrictions on daily life should be ended on June 21.
Ministers are considering adding a review clause that would allow the extended lockdown powers to be ended early on that date in a bid to head off a major rebellion.
No 10 insists it is only keeping rules in place that are necessary to the fight against the pandemic.
And it is also adamant that, while the unlocking of the country won't be sped up, the roadmap is squarely on track despite threats from the EU of a vaccine blockade on Britain.
Health minister Helen Whateley said: "We are absolutely on track with the roadmap.
"We'll of course continue to be cautious, we want the progress and the easing of restrictions to be irreversible.
"We will be driven by the data rather than the dates but absolutely we're on track with the roadmap."
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