The Straits Times says

No soft end to Britain's Brexit pangs

British Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to end months of inconclusive talks with the European Union by announcing a new negotiating stance has predictably caused rumbles in her Cabinet and party. Her "soft Brexit" position seeks to preserve as much as possible of Britain's existing free trade arrangements in Europe in return for accepting that London would remain bound by certain EU rules. Mr David Davis, the Secretary for Brexit, resigned and was quickly followed by the loud and visible Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Two of eight vice-chairs in her Conservative Party also left. It was not unexpected: Mr Davis, who like Mr Johnson favours a "hard" and complete Brexit, called Mrs May's plan a betrayal of the June 2016 referendum. The political froth has raised fears that Mrs May's government may be unstable and that Britain may be poised to follow its former colony, Australia, in rapid leadership changes. But this view may be misplaced. While it takes only 48 MPs to call a party vote to oust Mrs May, 159 votes are needed to secure the ouster.

This is unlikely to happen, more so since Mrs May has no obvious challenger. Besides, she bolstered her flanks by having a hardline Brexiter, former housing minister Dominic Raab, replace Mr Davis. Others who campaigned for Brexit, including Leave campaign co-leader Michael Gove and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, appear to have chosen to stay in Cabinet. Mrs May seems safe, for now. Yet, as the English summer wears on, Britain's Brexit convulsions seem likely to continue. Mr Johnson, who reportedly has eyes on No. 10, will not stay silent on the back benches, nor likely will Mr Davis. Labour and the Liberal Democrats will savour the chance of unseating Mrs May, if only to progress their own chances of national leadership. They are unlikely to help the Prime Minister as she winkles her nation out of the EU. There may even be more departures from her Cabinet as incumbents weigh the political costs at the next polls of their staying, or leaving.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2018, with the headline 'No soft end to Britain's Brexit pangs'. Print Edition | Subscribe