United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May is facing an uphill battle Wednesday as she struggles to unite the U.K.’s Conservative Party behind her own leadership and fend off a “no confidence” vote that could send Parliament into chaos.
May has been trying to hold her coalition together for weeks as she works out an official “exit deal” from the European Union — required by the “Brexit” vote taken in 2017. But her fellow conservatives are concerned that the deal May struck with EU leaders is far too deferential and keeps the U.K. too closely tied with the EU.
May’s Brexit-supporting colleagues want a “clean break,” and they simply don’t see that coming from the current Prime Minister, the Associated Press reports.
Protests got heated within Parliament this week, and the U.K.’s government is said to be in “disarray,” as Members of Parliament struggle to figure out what to do next on Brexit. Conservatives want out of the European Union. Liberals want a second referendum that could overturn the first Brexit vote.
But everyone agrees that Theresa May has mismanaged the situation.
The situation became so bad Tuesday evening that 45 Conservatives — May’s own party — called for a “no confidence” vote in their leader. The vote would strip May of her leadership role and force Conservatives to come together to find a more suitable leader to strike the official Brexit deal.
It’s a risky move: if the “no confidence” vote fails, it could hamstring May in her negotiations with European Union leaders, since the “no confidence” vote would publicly exhibit a government-wide lack of trust in her capacity to do her duties, and could serve as a warning to other countries that May may not be in power for long.
If the vote succeeds, it could be days or weeks before the Conservatives finally elect a new leader, and the U.K. is due to depart from the European Union no later than the 29th of March. That means a deal would have to be inked between the U.K. and the EU around the end of January — and that’s already pushing it with May in place.
Either way, many members of the Conservative Party agree that the vote is embarrassing.
““At one of the most pivotal moments for the U.K. economy in decades, it is unacceptable that Westminster politicians have chosen to focus on themselves, rather than on the needs of the country,” one high-ranking official told the AP.
The vote is expected to take place Wednesday evening — mid-day in the United States. In anticipation of a possible loss, May addressed some Conservative Party members Wednesday afternoon, pledging not to run for a second term during the U.K.’s official elections in 2022.
The late-term plea may have saved her. The Guardian reports that May is expected to hold on to her office, though by a narrow margin, and with a mandate to get a much better deal on Brexit.
If May survives Wednesday night’s vote, she’ll have a chance to pass a draft Brexit deal through Parliament. If Parliament approves that draft deal, it then goes to the European Union’s parliament to ratify. If that’s a success, the U.K. will officially exit the EU on or around March 29th. If the draft Brexit deal does not pass Parliament, May must go back to the drawing board, either returning to negotiations with EU leaders, or setting Brexit back to a second vote.