UK PM Theresa May has offered to resign if the House of Commons backs her Brexit deal. To get her government to pass a withdrawal agreement, May said she’ll step down after Brexit is delivered.
British MPs have seriously questioned the impact of PM May’s power or lack thereof, as the House of Commons has consistently disagreed on deal after deal.
In January, May proposed a withdrawal deal for the first time. This deal was overwhelming rejected by a 230 margin.
Soon after, May was put through a vote of no-confidence because MPs believed she didn’t have the support she needed to see Brexit through. She survived the vote because all 314 Tories in parliament voted to keep her in power.
After winning the vote of no-confidence, May said she was going to “continue to work to deliver on the solemn promise to the people of this country to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union”.
But the in-party disagreement over the terms of a withdrawal deal were far from over.
May’s time is running out
When May proposed another withdrawal deal, she was rejected again. This time, the MPs killed the deal by a narrower but still significant margin of 391 to 242.
Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn then called for a general election to unseat her, claiming she does not have the support of the British people.
“The PM has run down the clock, and the clock has been run out on her. Maybe, it’s time we had a general election and the people could choose who their government should be,” Corbyn said.
After needing to extend the Brexit deadline to June 30, British MPs have still not formed a consensus on which deal they will back.
Hence, they will now conduct a series of “indicative votes” where various MPs will propose their own Brexit deals and keep voting for each until they arrive at a singular deal that a majority of them support.
On March 27, when the House reconvened for indicative votes, May said she would step down.
“I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach, and leadership… So, I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and party,” she said.
Corbyn tweeted May’s offer to step down shows that the confusion around the Brexit deal is because she is mismanaging her party.
“Theresa May’s pledge to Tory MPs to stand down if they vote for her deal shows once and for all that her chaotic Brexit negotiations have been about party management, not principles or the public interest.”
He added that the UK public had the right to decide the next PM, not the Tories.
Leadership contest rules
The Conservative Party will hold a leadership contest to decide who will replace May. This contest will likely start after a Brexit deal is finalised and the UK has left the EU.
As many as 12 candidates are expected to face-off for the seat. But each of them must first be nominated by two other MPs in the party. Then, rounds of voting will take place to narrow down all candidates to just two.
After that, all members of the Conservative Party in the UK will be allowed to vote for who they want as the PM between the final two MPs.
Who are the likely candidates?
Although nothing is official yet, experts have mentioned a few front-runners in the leadership contest.
Many conservatives favour Boris Johnson, one of the most prolific officials to support the Leave campaign. However, the Financial Times (FT) said he is a polarising figure in British, especially Conservative, politics.
“His sudden conversion to May’s Brexit deal on Wednesday, minutes after she had made a commitment to stand down, will be seen by some Tory colleagues as more evidence of his ruthless obsession with becoming prime minister,” said FT.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and former secretary Dominic Raab have also emerged as viable candidates.
Hunt voted to remain in the EU and, some say, his ideology has now become too left of centre for the Tories. “… a plus for him is that he maybe able to cast himself as the only candidate who can stop Johnson,” explains the Guardian.
Even Raab is considered a direct opponent to Johnson and, there are already rumblings of a social media campaign for him called “Ready for Raab”. On Twitter, the campaign is positioning him as a “capable and fair” PM, should he be elected.
UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove also has a shot at the seat. He is amicable towards a ‘no deal’ scenario like 157 other Tories, but he has also supported May’s Brexit deal. He has one foot on either side of the proverbial pond and might be moderate enough to win the contest.
Another politician who enjoys support within the party is Home Secretary Sajid Javid. Although he voted to remain in the EU, he is favoured by Conservatives for towing a hardline against immigration, despite having a Pakistani father.
One of the youngest potential candidates is Health Secretary Matt Hancock. This “Remainer-turned-Leaver” may have the power to unite his party, experts say. He also has the potential to compete against Johnson and is considered an alternative to Hunt.
And the lone female candidate
The only female candidate to be mentioned is Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd. She is a strong supporter of the Remain campaign but has also “openly defied the PM by going public with her opposition to a no-deal Brexit”. However, the Tories could see her as being too soft in Brexit negotiations.
May’s resignation may not be good news for her political career; it, however, has great potential to end the chaos related to the withdrawal deal and unite the ruling party.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.