Theresa May to set departure timeline after vote on Brexit Bill

An anti-Brexit placard depicting Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May.

An anti-Brexit placard depicting Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May.  

Boris Johnson to enter the intra-party contest to replace her

British Prime Minister Theresa May will set a timetable for her departure after a crucial vote on Brexit legislation in June, as Conservative MPs temporarily backed away from demands that she set a date for her departure this week and Boris Johnson declared his intention to enter the intra-party contest to replace her.

Her plan will add to the significance of the vote on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Bill, whose crucial second reading is set to take place in the week beginning June 3, and through which the Prime Minister hopes to make a final attempt to get her Brexit plans through Parliament.

At the weekend, Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs (MPs without a government post) had insisted that a departure date needed to be set when Ms. May met the group on Thursday.

However, following the 90-minute meeting in the House of Commons, Mr. Brady said the Prime Minister remained determined to secure Britain’s departure from the EU via the Withdrawal Agreement Bill by the summer.

“We have agreed that she and I will meet following the second reading of the Bill to agree a timetable for the election of a new leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party,” he said on Thursday.

Mounting pressure

Pressure has been building on the Prime Minster to set a date for her departure: she had till now only confirmed she will leave in time for the next phase of negotiations with the EU on their future relations but the timing of these remain uncertain because of the political stalemate in Britain.

Discontent within Conservative Party ranks with Ms. May’s performance has only increased since the cross-party talks with Labour began. Some have sought to pressure the 1922 Committee to change its rules to enable a second intra-party vote of no confidence to take place against her within the space of a year, but it has so far not proved successful

Pressure on her is set to grow further after European Parliamentary elections, set to take place next week, in which the Conservative Party is expected to perform poorly, haemorrhaging votes to the newly-formed Brexit Party in particular.

The timescale of her departure is likely to be determined by the fortunes of the Bill: if she were to lose the vote on the second reading, there will be calls for her immediate departure. Currently, Ms. May’s hopes of getting the legislation through Parliament look dim, with MPs across the political spectrum warning they would vote against her. However, Ms. May may be counting on the European Parliamentary elections — and the expected backlash against the Labour and the Conservatives — to persuade some wavering MPs in both parties to back her Bill for fear of further alienating the public.

While the latest developments will undoubtedly be seen as a reprieve for Ms. May, they will also likely fuel the already-under way competition to succeed her. A large number of Conservative MPs have either declared their interest in taking part in the race to succeed her or are assumed to be in the running. On Thursday, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson — who according to a recent YouGov poll is the public’s favourite to replace her (support running at 32% against 27% for Ms. May) — declared his intention to enter the race.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 3:13:16 PM |

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