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Brexit: PM May caught in a bind, may face no-trust vote

The latest row triggered renewed speculation over Theresa May’s future as the prime minister, with demands that she give up strategic ambiguity in the exit talks with the EU.

world Updated: Jan 29, 2018 16:34 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Britain-EU relations,United Kingdom,Theresa May
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street, London, on January 24, 2018. (Reuters)

With March 2019 set as the deadline for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May is facing much heat from inside and outside her Conservative Partyover lack of clarity on the nature of Brexit her government is aiming for.

A recent speech in Davos by chancellor Philip Hammond reopened rows between those who are keen to remain in the EU, those who would like to remain as close to the EU as possible after Brexit, and those who insist on what is called “hard Brexit” – a clean break.

The latest row triggered renewed speculation over May’s future as the Conservative Party leader and prime minister, with demands that she give up strategic ambiguity in the exit talks, clarify end positions, or face the mounting risk of a no-confidence vote within the party.

Given the ConservativeParty’s strength in the House of Commons, 48 MPs have to submit letters seeking the confidence vote. Westminster is rife with claims that as many as 40 have already sentletters, with more on the way. Some claim May has three months to shape up or ship out.

Hammond’s statement to top business leaders that there will be only a “modest” change in the relationship with the EU after Brexit raised hackles back home. Leading Brexiteers such as Jacob Rees-Mogg have heaped much criticism onHammond, seen as pro-EU.

Senior Conservative MP Theresa Villierswent public. She wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that Britain risks remaining in the EU “in all but name”, and added: “Since the prime minister set out a bold vision in her Lancaster House speech,the direction of travel seems to have gone in only one single direction: towards a dilution of Brexit.

“If the government goes too much further down that path, there is a real danger that it will sign up to an agreement which could keep us in the EU in all but name, and which would therefore fail to respect the referendum result.”

The Brexit-related conundrum comes against the backdrop of jostling among ambitious Tory leaders who aspire to replace May, particularly foreign secretary Boris Johnson and defence secretary Gavin Williamson.

A new poll suggested there is growing public support for another referendum on Brexit, but the possibility has been shot down by both major parties. However, Brexit-related uncertainties may soon come to a boil to force both Remain and Leave sides to support another mid-term election to decide the issue.

First Published: Jan 29, 2018 16:32 IST