Sunday, 23 Feb 2020

Theresa May to face pressure to abandon vote on Brexit law and resign

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Mrs Theresa May is facing pressure to abandon her Brexit deal, even after she promised MPs the chance to call a second referendum on Brexit, and quit as British prime minister within days, according to people familiar with the matter.

Several senior government officials said they were shocked that the premier’s new offer intended to win votes in Parliament for her European Union divorce agreement had been so badly received so quickly.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the individuals said Mrs May’s allies know there is little hope of her Withdrawal Agreement Bill passing a crucial vote in the House of Commons, even after she promised MPs the chance to call a second referendum on Brexit.

With a fourth humiliating defeat for her plan now looking likely, Mrs May’s Conservative Party colleagues will urge her to cancel the vote on her Bill, planned for the first week of June.

That will leave her with little reason to carry on as prime minister. A number of officials inside the party believe she will face intense pressure from her own ministers to quit and make way for a new leader to try to deliver Brexit.

“I will not vote for it,” wrote Mr Boris Johnson, the most senior pro-Brexit candidate who wants to replace Mrs May as Tory leader, tweeted. “We can and must do better – and deliver what the people voted for.”

The speculation over Mrs May’s future intensified after she made a desperate final gamble to get her Brexit deal through the British Parliament before she’s thrown out of office.

In a hastily arranged speech Tuesday (May 21), the embattled Conservative leader promised to give Parliament a vote on whether to call another referendum to ratify Britain’s divorce from the EU.

While Mrs May opposes another plebiscite, it’s something many MPs – including scores in the opposition Labour Party – have been calling for. Mrs May made her offer conditional on MPs backing her overall deal first.

Within minutes of her speech ending, the backlash began. Pro-Brexit Conservative MPs joined opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Mrs May’s Northern Irish allies to condemn her proposals. They vowed to vote against them in the House of Commons next month.

The failure of Mrs May’s deal would throw the UK into renewed turmoil and uncertainty. The outcome of Brexit would be almost impossible to predict as it will be left to Mrs May’s successor as Tory leader and prime minister to complete the process.

Leaving the EU with no deal, or even remaining inside the bloc could be back on the table once Mrs May is gone. Mr Johnson, who has said he’d be prepared to leave without an agreement, is the front-runner in the leadership race that’s unofficially under way.

Mrs May’s offer represents possibly the final throw of the dice for a prime minister who has run out of options. Almost three years after the UK voted to exit the EU, Mrs May’s deal has been rejected three times by Parliament.

She’s tried cross-party talks to work out a joint plan with Mr Corbyn, but they collapsed last week. Her party is now bracing for defeat in European elections Thursday – a poll the UK wasn’t meant to take part in and has been forced to because Brexit has been delayed.

Mrs May has already promised to work with her party on a timetable for electing her successor after the vote on the Bill takes place. The question now is whether her Tory critics allow her that much time.

A Reuters report quoted The Sun newspaper as saying that senior backbenchers on the Tory 1922 committee’s executive will mount a new bid to force a confidence vote in Mrs May during a lunchtime Commons address on Wednesday.

“I will be asking my colleagues on the 1922 executive tomorrow to agree to a rule change so we can hold an immediate confidence vote if Theresa is not prepared to stand down now,” the newspaper quoted Conservative lawmaker Nigel Evans as saying.

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