About 50 Brexit-supporting lawmakers in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government have met to discuss how and when they could force her out of her job, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
Since her botched bet on a snap election in June 2017 lost her party its majority in parliament, May has faced persistent talk of a leadership challenge which has weakened her as she tries to clinch a Brexit deal with the European Union.
Lawmakers from the European Research Group (ERG), a grouping in May’s Conservative Party, which wants a sharper break with the EU, met on Tuesday night and openly discussed May’s future.
Unattributed comments included “everyone I know says she has to go”, “she’s a disaster” and “this can’t go on,” the BBC reported.
One source quoted by the BBC said “people feel the leadership is out of touch and has lost the plot” but another said changing the leader “is a stupid idea now”. The pound fell against the dollar to as low as $1.2994 but later recovered to trade flat at $1.3028.
The United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29. The EU and UK hope to clinch a deal later this year so that Parliaments on both sides can ratify it before Brexit. European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU will not allow Britain to participate only in some parts of the bloc’s single market after Brexit without honouring all of the rules.
But May’s proposals for a post-Brexit free trade area for goods with the EU and the acceptance of a “common rulebook” for goods have angered committed Brexiteers inside her party.
Even a small rebellion inside her party on a final deal could spell the end of her government and throw Britain’s exit into chaos: She has 315 lawmakers in parliament who vote yet she needs 320 votes to pass a deal.
Michael Gove, May’s environment minister and a leading Brexiteer, told BBC radio: “I want to ensure that we get a solid vote, which I am sure we will, when the prime minister brings back the treaty,” adding lawmakers should rally behind May.
Some rebel lawmakers at the Tuesday meeting said they had submitted letters of no confidence in May, the source told the BBC. Under Conservative rules, a leadership election is triggered if 15 per cent of Conservative lawmakers, currently 48 of its 315 members of parliament (MPs), demand a vote of no confidence.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ERG leader, is due on Wednesday to unveil how Britain could leave the EU without constructing a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, one of the main sticking points in securing a Brexit deal.
The BBC said Tuesday's meeting did not include all the ERG's senior figures and it had discussed possible scenarios depending on whether May was able to secure a deal with the EU based on her proposals.
The rift in May's party deepened this week with Boris Johnson, her former foreign secretary who quit the cabinet over the Brexit proposal, comparing May's plan in a newspaper column to putting a “suicide vest” on Britain's constitution.
May's spokesman said her so-called Chequers proposal is the only serious, credible and negotiable plan available.
The Sun newspaper reported on Wednesday that May's office was drawing up secret plans to ditch her Chequers blueprint if EU leaders reject it at a summit next week.