U.K. Cabinet Ministers Are War-Gaming the Fall of Theresa May

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U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is confronting what could be the end of her premiership as the near impossible task of delivering a Brexit deal cracks her fragile government apart.

In the past two weeks, May has lost the trust of her Cabinet ministers, infuriated members of Parliament on all sides, and been told to her face a growing number of Conservatives want her to quit, according to at least 12 people familiar with the matter who declined to named.

Government ministers are now privately war-gaming the end of May’s rule as speculation grows that the Brexit crisis could force her out in the days ahead, officials said. May’s office declined to comment.

One senior Conservative figure said the situation is grave and appealed to May’s husband to urge his wife to resign so she can escape the miserable situation she’s in.

May’s crisis stems from her failure to get the divorce agreement she’s struck with the European Union ratified in Parliament, forcing her to make a humiliating request to EU leaders for more time to try again.

Persuading May to go will be tough. She’s survived countless set-backs already and shows few signs of wanting to leave the job she took on in July 2016.

But her situation has become dire. In Brussels, she has eroded trust among fellow EU leaders and was granted only a short period of grace. The perception is of someone who has lost control of her government and her party.

Rival pro and anti-Brexit factions inside May’s Tories are pulling her in opposite directions, with one side favouring a long extension of negotiations and a closer relationship with the EU, and the other demanding an early exit and a clean break. Ministers on both wings of the party are weighing up whether to resign if she does not side with them.

May has said she won’t lead the Tories into the next election, scheduled for 2022, but some in her party now want her gone within weeks.

The crisis looks set to come to a head next week when the House of Commons is due to vote again on the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement. Parliament is also likely to vote on alternative Plan B options, potentially including a second referendum, staying in the EU’s customs union, and cancelling Brexit.

Read More: Mays Says Another Extension is Possible

May herself has burned so much political trust in the past weeks that she now seems powerless to steer events herself.

Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said she thinks May doesn’t have long left as prime minister, whether she gets her deal approved by Parliament or not.

Even if the premier delivers Brexit, “she can’t be the person to lead phase two" of the negotiations, which will focus on future trading arrangements, Morgan said on Friday in an interview.

If a third meaningful vote on May’s deal doesn’t go well, "I cannot see how her withdrawal agreement can be voted for again,” Morgan said. She added that Parliament would then try to find a different Brexit policy and May “cannot hang around’’ to negotiate that.

There is no clean way for angry Conservatives to get rid of their leader before December. That’s because she survived a leadership challenge at the end of last year and another can’t be brought against her for a year, under the party’s rules.

But May is now battling daily with her own side, facing delegations of angry ministers who are threatening to resign, and trying to persuade her party to support her. May’s outburst of frustration at Parliament for blocking her deal on Wednesday was too much for some of her colleagues to take, reportedly including her chief whip.

Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 Committee of rank-and-file Conservative MPs, went to see May in person this week to inform her that many of his colleagues want her to resign.

Some of May’s critics think she should go immediately, while others believe she must stand aside in May or June to allow a new leader to be elected in time for the party’s annual conference at the end of September.

She was described as “a dead woman walking” by former chancellor George Osborne in June 2017 after losing her majority in a failed election. Almost two years later, May is still on her feet, but the question is, for how much longer.

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