Euroskeptic Tories have failed to stop UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for a soft Brexit and are considering a radical last ditch move that could bring down her minority government later this year.
May is pushing ahead with her blueprint for keeping the UK in a close trading partnership with the European Union for goods, despite the resignations of two cabinet ministers in protest.
According to senior Tories, speaking on condition of anonymity, euroskeptics who want a more decisive split from the bloc have only one choice left: to vote down the final withdrawal agreement when it comes to Parliament for approval.
If the rebels succeed in blocking May’s EU exit treaty in Parliament, it is uncertain what would follow in the chaotic aftermath.
The UK would be on course to crash out of the 28-nation bloc without an overall agreement, an outcome that could force May from power, or trigger an election. May’s administration is in disarray as her party’s internal battle over how to deliver Brexit escalates. With time for negotiating a withdrawal treaty running out, talks between the EU and UK in Brussels have stalled because May’s team has been unable to decide what kind of Brexit they want.
She finally forced her feuding cabinet ministers to choose between backing her most detailed proposals for the future trade relationship with the EU, or quitting.
But, after initially agreeing to support May’s proposals, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned in a dramatic 24 hours over Sunday night and into Monday. Other senior government figures, including Davis’s deputy Steve Baker, also quit because they disagree with May.
In an attempt to win cross-party backing, May’s team have begun briefing the main opposition Labour Party, in the hope of being able to persuade them to support her plans. This has further fuelled the Tory infighting.