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Will Brexit be the end of May?

July 10, 2018 12:14 IST

The Britain’s ruling party is suffering a leadership challenge with Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson dramatically resigning over their inability to support the terms and conditions drawn up to exit the European Union, reports Ashis Ray. 

IMAGE: On her way out? The only thing saving Britain's PM Theresa May is the fact that British parliament rises for the summer recess in a fortnight, when politics in this country historically goes into hibernation. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

A leadership challenge from within the ruling Conservative party appeared to loom for incumbent British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday, after two of her heavyweight cabinet ministers, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, dramatically resigned over their avowed inability to support the terms and conditions drawn up to exit the European Union. 

 

A junior minister in Davis’s department, Steve Baker, also tendered his papers. In a no-holds-barred resignation letter, Davis said he would not be a “reluctant conscript” to May’s Brexit plan. But the City of London provided a mixed reaction to his departure. The Financial Times Stock Exchange rose by around 1 per cent. But the pound fell by 0.29 per cent against both the dollar and the euro.

Clearly under pressure, May, while addressing a noisy House of Commons, asserted in respect of her two former cabinet colleagues: “We do not agree on the best way to deliver our shared commitments to honour the result of the (Brexit) referendum.”

In June 2016, in a cataclysmic outcome, Britons voted to leave the EU, where the United Kingdom had been a member since 1973. For nearly 40 years, Conservatives have been deeply divided on their country’s continuance in the organisation, which forced May’s predecessor David Cameron to call a plebiscite. 

What could save May, though, is the fact that the British parliament rises for the summer recess in a fortnight, when politics in this country historically goes into hibernation. While it is entirely possible for hostilities to resume in autumn -- before or during the annual party conference -- it may not be easy to maintain the momentum. At the same time, while a widespread assessment persists, there is no automatic successor to May within her party, many among its grassroot membership favour a hard Brexit.      

Only on Friday, the British cabinet -- bitterly split at least three ways -- in a 12-hour marathon session at the prime minister’s country retreat at Chequers in the leafy county of Buckinghamshire agreed on a 120-page document. 

Ashis Ray
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