No sooner had May outlined her new ‘compromise’ 10-point Brexit offering to the nation and parliamentarians on Tuesday afternoon, could the sound of knives sharpening be heard on the Tory backbenches – with calls for her to quit.
It has ostensibly been the prime minister’s opening of the door on a second referendum that has really riled Tories across the board, from those previously loyal to May to the hardline Brexiteers.
Former London Mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith took to social media to unleash a scathing critique of May’s deal with a second referendum as bait. He tweeted: “That it takes us towards a rigged referendum between her deal and no Brexit is just grotesque. The PM must go.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the influential Tory Brexiteer group the European Research Group (ERG), also gave a damning verdict, claiming the PM’s latest proposals were “worse than before.” While former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is hotly tipped to succeed May as prime minister, singled out the prospects of a customs union and second referendum as reasons he would vote it down.
The front pages of Wednesday’s papers made for grim viewing for May. You know when things are bad when the consistently loyal Daily Mail turn against you with their ‘Theresa’s Gamble Too Far’ headline. Fellow right-wing paper, The Daily Telegraph, went with the brutal: ‘Desperate, deluded, doomed.’
May’s new compromise deal highlights
- A vote for MPs on whether the deal should be subject to a referendum.
- The government will bring forward a customs union compromise for MPs to decide on how to break the impasse.
- No change in the level of environmental protections when the UK leaves the EU.
- New workers’ rights bill that guarantees workers’ rights will be no less favorable than in the EU.
- A commitment that, should the backstop become necessary, the government will ensure that the UK will stay aligned with Northern Ireland.
Labour has been equally scathing of May’s fresh proposals, with leader Jeremy Corbyn contesting that they were “basically a rehash of what was discussed before.” He raised the issue of May’s weak position as leader, calling into question the “deliverability” of her new deal, adding that his party would not be supporting the Bill.
The End is Nigh?
It’s increasingly apparent that the prime minister’s position is becoming untenable. In a desperate last bid to please everyone, she has essentially pleased no-one. It was never going to be an easy task to unite a House of Commons with no overall majority for the government.
May has managed to push lawmakers further away and not closer to backing her deal. Her attempt at compromise has come at the end of the process, when it should have been instigated after the 2017 General election which produced a hung parliament.
The dark clouds appear to be circling above the besieged prime minister. The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg reports that “there is a new push to oust PM asap.” At Wednesday’s meeting of the powerful Tory 1922 committee, there will be an attempt to change the rules to allow for another confidence vote in May, according to backbench MP Nigel Evans.
Could the EU election results, scheduled for Sunday, finally be the day when May throws in the towel and admits defeat on her Brexit deal, and ultimately call time on her reign as UK prime minister? We await with bated breath.