The undermining of Theresa May

Theresa May
Theresa May
British Prime Minister Theresa May is being described as a dead PM walking, given the huge challenges she faces this week.

The British media are using May, Brexit and turmoil in the same sentence as they predict Mrs May will soon be rolled as Tory leader. But who will replace her is a contest yet to be decided.

Mrs May has faced down some poisonous members of her party before. This time, the resignations of former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, David Davies, the man tasked with overseeing Brexit, and other influential MPs appear to be a contest Mrs May will be pressed to win.

United States President Donald Trump's visit to Britain has not helped Mrs May's chances. Not one for standing back, Mr Trump told Mrs May to sue the European Union, rather than negotiate - advice she did not take.

Mr Trump displayed a blatant disregard for the British Prime Minister. He savaged her Brexit plan in remarks to a British newspaper, which were published just as the two were sitting down for dinner.

He recommended to the public the idea of Mr Johnson becoming a good prime minister and he seemed to rule out any trade deal with the US.

This week the legislative substance of Brexit returns to the floor of Commons, in the form of the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill and the quite distinct Trade Bill.

Amendments have been piling up, partly as a means of testing the strength of the opposition to the Chequers agreement. Later in the week, what remains of the deal will be the subject of general debate. The next day, new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab will take questions from the floor.

Mrs May is caught in a bind. She can no longer rely on Labour remainers to support the Chequers deal and the white paper it spawned as the best hope of a soft-ish Brexit.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to provide any support. He is more interested in bringing down the Tories than helping them solve a problem of their own making.

The Labour leadership is gambling defeating Mrs May in Brexit votes will hasten the downfall of the Government, causing an early election.

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, the head of the powerful ERG group of Eurosceptic Conservatives, claims he can rally the 48 votes needed to trigger a confidence vote in Mrs May. He requires 159 and seems unlikely to get to that number. However, what Mr Rees-Mogg and his colleagues are doing is undermining Mrs May. She may get the EU to accept her plan, but more than 60 Conservative MPs are opposed to her version of a Brexit deal.

Mrs May is stranded. She cannot go back to any previous, and more ruthless, Brexit deal without losing what remains of her authority over the Government and destroying what is left of her credibility in Europe.

In a rare television interview yesterday, Mrs May sounded defiant and ready for her fight back. She insists her Brexit red lines of leaving the customs union, ending free movement and freeing the UK from the meddling of EU judges will all be retained. Those points are non-negotiable.

The Prime Minister does have her allies. Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan told warring Tory MPs to reunite or risk their party going down the plug hole.

Britain has earlier indicated it is interested in becoming part of the new version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. New Zealand needs to be aware of the ramifications of British politics this week as the effects on New Zealand will be not long in coming.

 

Comments

Previous Governments in the UK ratified greater political unification in the EU through Treaties of Maastricht and Lisbon. Unlike other European Countries, there was no mandate sought from the electorate in the UK by manifesto or referendum.
This led to the Brexit referendum. Theresa May, has managed to provide the impression (perhaps unfairly) that she is again a politician playing political games. Her white paper should have been prepared with input from MPs forming a consensus first, but appears to be a top down document.

 

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