UK’s May battles to save her Brexit deal and her job
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May was battling Thursday to save both her Brexit deal and her job, as ministers quit her government and a growing list of lawmakers demanded her ouster over the divorce agreement struck between Britain and the European Union.
Less than a day after May won her Cabinet’s grudging backing for the deal, two Cabinet ministers and a handful of junior government members resigned, and a leading pro-Brexit lawmaker from May’s Conservative Party called for a no-confidence vote in the prime minister.
The hard-won agreement has infuriated pro-Brexit members of her divided party. They say the agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the bloc, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to European Union rules it has no say in making.
A defiant May insisted that Brexit meant making “the right choices, not the easy ones” and urged lawmakers to support the deal “in the national interest.” She said the deal was best for business as it would help maintain easy trade with Europe and would reduce uncertainty.
But she has been weakened by the resignation of two senior Cabinet ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. Hours after he sat in the meeting that approved the deal, Raab said he “cannot in good conscience” support it.
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey followed Raab out the door. She said in a letter that it is “no good trying to pretend to (voters) that this deal honors the result of the referendum when it is obvious to everyone that it doesn’t.”
In another blow to May, leading pro-Brexit lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg called for a vote of no-confidence in May, saying the Brexit deal was “worse than anticipated.”
Standing outside Parliament Rees-Mogg said the deal agreed “is not Brexit” because it would keep Britain in a customs union with the EU, potentially for an indefinite period.
Under Conservative rules, a confidence vote in the leader is triggered if 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers — currently 48 — write a letter to the party’s 1922 Committee of backbenchers, which oversees leadership votes.
Only committee chairman Graham Brady knows for sure how many missives have been sent, but Rees-Mogg’s letter is likely to spur others to do the same.
Rees-Mogg denied he was calling for a party coup.
“A coup is when you use illegitimate processes,” he said. “This is working through the procedures of the Conservative Party.”
He called for May to be replaced by a more firmly pro-Brexit politician, naming ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit Secretary David Davis and Raab as potential successors.
If a confidence vote is held and May loses, it would trigger a party leadership contest in which any Conservative lawmaker can run. The winner would become prime minister without the need for a national election.