British PM Theresa May to set timetable for her departure in June

An anti-Brexit placard depicting British Prime Minister Theresa May near the Houses of Parliament in London yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS
An anti-Brexit placard depicting British Prime Minister Theresa May near the Houses of Parliament in London yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS

British leader wants to get her Brexit deal through Parliament first; former foreign minister Johnson declares intention to replace her

LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May will set out a timetable for her departure early next month, after the latest attempt to get her Brexit deal approved by Parliament, the chairman of her Conservative Party's 1922 Committee said yesterday.

Mrs May has promised to step down after her Brexit deal is approved by lawmakers but has come under increasing pressure from many in her party to set out clearly when she will quit in the event the agreement is rejected for a fourth time.

The government has said lawmakers will be able to debate and vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, the legislation required to enact her deal, in the week starting June 3.

"The Prime Minister is determined to secure our departure from the European Union and is devoting her efforts to securing the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week commencing June 3... and the passage of that Bill and the consequent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union by the summer," 1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady said in a statement following a meeting with Mrs May.

"We have agreed that she and I will meet following the second reading of the Bill to agree a timetable for the election of a new leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party."

Mrs May survived a no-confidence vote in December and, under current party rules, cannot be challenged again for a year. Some on Mr Brady's committee had pushed for those rules to be changed in order to try and force her out earlier.

Mrs May's Brexit deal has already been rejected three times by Parliament. Weeks of talks with the opposition Labour Party, the idea of which was deeply unpopular with many Conservatives, have failed to find a consensus on the way forward.

 
 
 
 

Mired in Brexit deadlock and forced to delay Britain's March 29 exit from the EU, the Tories suffered major losses in local elections this month and are trailing in opinion polls before European Parliament elections on May 23.

With Labour and Brexit-supporting rebels in the Conservatives planning to vote against her deal, it is unlikely to be approved as things stand.

One Conservative lawmaker, who declined to be named, was unimpressed with Mrs May's failure to set a clear departure date.

"This is deeply disappointing. The Prime Minister should have made her position clear at today's meeting. This is yet further procrastination which is causing appalling damage to the Conservative Party," the lawmaker said. "This is yet another example of a misplaced sense of duty. Her duty in fact is to step aside as quickly as possible, so that a new leader can be in place this summer."

Meanwhile, Mr Boris Johnson, the face of the Brexit campaign, yesterday said he will be standing as a candidate to replace Mrs May as Conservative leader.

"Of course I'm going to go for it," he told the BBC at The British Insurance Brokers' Association.

Mr Johnson resigned from the Cabinet last July in protest over Mrs May's handling of the exit negotiations.

The former foreign minister and mayor of London had already made his pitch to the Conservative membership in a speech at the party's annual conference in October, with some members lining up for hours to get a seat.

He called on the party to return to its traditional values of low tax, strong policing and not to follow the policies of the left-wing Labour Party.

Betting odds indicate he is the leading candidate to replace Mrs May and has a 28 per cent chance of being the next prime minister.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2019, with the headline 'PM May to set timetable for her departure in June'. Print Edition | Subscribe