After weeks of talks between the Conservatives and Labour to find a compromise Brexit deal to pass in the House of Commons, the dialogue collapsed without agreement. However, this came as no surprise as it was already clear that the two main parties are deeply divided over Brexit. In addition, the cross-party cooperation was not supported by backbenchers of either parties.
The failure of the cross-party dialogue, exacerbated by Theresa May’s own unstable position and increasing pressure from her colleagues to leave, incentivized May to announce that she will set a timetable for her departure. Before departing, May will still try to avoid British MEPs actually having to take up their seats in the European Parliament after the elections held today (Thursday, 23 May). She will also push for the new Withdrawal Agreement Bill to be voted on in June. As a compromise in the negotiations with Labour, the new Brexit deal would include a provision that states the UK Parliament has the final say on the backstop. Additionally, the bill would also grant Westminster the power to weigh on the future relationship between the EU and UK.
As May feels pressurized, she even announced a concession on a second Brexit referendum during a keynote speech in London. Concretely, a vote for a second referendum would be possible if her new Withdrawal Agreement Bill passes onto the next stage of the legislative process. In that case, May wants to give anti-Brexit MPs the chance to add the option of a second referendum to the new bill once it has gone through its second reading, a stage where MPs can attach amendments.
It seems that May is able to survive the latest storm, but for how long? After a lot of rumours, it was not the Prime Minister, but leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom who announced she quits the government over Brexit and May’s handling of the process. Her resignation is the 36th by a minister under May and the 21st minister to quit over Brexit. Political pundits believe May’s resignation could be announced in a matter of just a few days.
The Conservatives are expected to perform badly in the European elections. Perhaps a departure of Prime Minister Theresa May after the elections could be a way to end a disastrous chapter in Tory/UK history and open up a new, more hopeful one. More ministerial resignations could still follow too, but not today. Today is voting time.