May fights for survival after Brexit divorce deal triggers crisis
British Prime Minister Theresa May was fighting for survival on Friday after a draft divorce deal with the European Union provoked the resignations of senior ministers and open mutiny in her party.
More than two years after the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, it is still unclear how, on what terms or even if it will leave the EU as planned on March 29, 2019.
May, who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 referendum, has sought to negotiate a Brexit deal that ensures that the United Kingdom leaves in the smoothest way possible.
But Brexit minister Dominic Raab resigned on Thursday over her deal, sending the pound tumbling. Mutinous lawmakers in her own party openly sought to challenge her leadership and bluntly told her that the Brexit deal would not pass parliament.
May, who has vowed to stay on as prime minister, was asked by a caller on an LBC radio phone-in on Friday to “respectfully stand down”. She did not immediately address that part of the caller’s question.
“I haven’t appointed a new Brexit Secretary yet but of course I will be doing that over the course of the next day or so,” May said when asked if she had offered it to Michael Gove, the most prominent Brexit-supporting minister in her government.
Gove gave no comment when asked outside his house whether he would support May. The BBC said May had offered him the job of Brexit minister but he had rejected the job.
Sterling, which has see-sawed on Brexit news since the referendum, was broadly flat at $1.2783 on Friday.
Brexit will pitch the world’s fifth largest economy into the unknown. Many fear it will divide the West as it grapples with both the unconventional U.S. presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.
Amid the deepest political turmoil since the Suez canal crisis, when in 1956 Britain was forced by the United States to withdraw its troops from Egypt, the ultimate outcome remains uncertain.
Scenarios include May’s deal ultimately winning approval; May losing her job; Britain leaving the bloc with no agreement; or even another referendum.
To leave the EU on the terms of her deal, May would need to get the backing of about 320 of parliament’s 650 lawmakers.
Some lawmakers in May’s Conservative Party have said they have submitted letters of no confidence. When 48 letters are submitted to the party’s so-called 1922 committee, she will face a leadership challenge.