Has Theresa May Finally Run Out of Options on Brexit?
Theresa May took a major step closer to leaving office, in the face of growing demands to quit as U.K. prime minister over her failure to deliver Brexit.
The embattled premier agreed that next month she will set out a timetable for her exit, the Conservative Party’s most senior rank-and-file politician Graham Brady announced.
First, however, May will try one last time to finish the job she started and get her Brexit deal approved in a vote in Parliament. It’s unlikely to succeed.
“We had a very frank exchange with the prime minister,” Brady told reporters on Thursday, after he and other senior Conservatives met her for a showdown behind closed doors.
The pound weakened. Investors are bracing for more political turmoil and a leadership race that could put a hardline Brexit-backer in office.
Contenders to replace May have already begun campaigning. On Thursday, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson became the latest and highest profile name to declare he will run.
May has clung fiercely to power despite suffering repeated set-backs to her political project, including an election gamble that went wrong, and three humiliating Parliamentary defeats for the divorce agreement she spent two years negotiating with the European Union.
Now her own party has finally run out of patience.
After their private meeting on Thursday, Brady said he and May had agreed that they will meet again to finalize the timetable for electing a new Conservative leader after the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is put to a vote in the House of Commons in the first week of June. This meeting will happen “regardless” of whether the Brexit deal law is approved or rejected, he said.
The result is that the U.K. is now likely to have a new prime minister before it is due to leave the EU at the end of October. Unless May can work a political miracle or she decides to radically reverse her own position, it is likely to be left to the next leader to execute Britain’s departure from the EU.
May has already promised to stand aside once she’s delivered Brexit to allow a new leader to take charge for the next phase of negotiations with the EU, focusing on the future trade relationship with the bloc.
In a joint statement between the Tory party’s 1922 Committee and May, they noted that the premier is “determined to secure our departure from the European Union” before the summer. The question is whether her party gives her the chance.