British PM faces calls to quit within three months

LONDON • Mrs Theresa May must resign as British Prime Minister and Conservative leader later this year after delivering Brexit, according to politicians at the highest levels of her own government.

Mrs May has promised her party she will stand down before the next general election, slated for 2022, but she is likely to face pressure to go within the next three months.

Once Britain leaves the European Union, and local district elections on May 2 are over, the Prime Minister will have no reason to stay in office, one senior minister said, speaking privately. Brexit is scheduled for March 29.

A person familiar with another minister's views agreed with the timescale, arguing that the Prime Minister should leave in the summer, so a new leader can be in place in time for the party's annual conference in October.

A third senior member of Mrs May's administration pointed out that the Tories had no way of formally seeking to remove Mrs May before December under the party's internal leadership rules.

Starting the clock on Mrs May's departure means that even if Britain leaves the EU as planned at end-March, with a divorce agreement in place, the political uncertainty that has defined British politics since 2016 is likely to continue.

Since losing the Conservative Party's ruling majority in a disastrous election campaign in 2017, Mrs May has suffered an almost uninterrupted torrent of political blows and criticism over her personal leadership and handling of the Brexit negotiations.

 

A succession of Cabinet ministers quit in protest at her handling of the EU negotiations, and she survived a vote of no-confidence in her leadership of the party and another in the government itself.

Last month, Mrs May's Brexit deal was rejected in the biggest Commons defeat for any administration in over a century, and last week, three Tories decided they could no longer stay in her party and defected to form a new group.

Last December, in the gravest crisis of her leadership, Mrs May made a promise to her party that she would not fight another general election as party leader.

That bought her enough support to survive the vote of no-confidence in her leadership of the Conservatives, although one in three Tory members of Parliament voted against her.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 24, 2019, with the headline 'British PM faces calls to quit within three months'. Print Edition | Subscribe