May in the middle: A precarious place for the UK prime minister

Two ministerial resignations and a backbench revolt underline the deep divisions over Europe among the United Kingdom’s governing Conservatives that Theresa May is attempting to straddle as the clock ticks down on the UK’s March 2019 deadline for leaving the EU.

Wednesday, July 11, 15:00 UK / 10:00 EDT

Two prominent ‘Brexiteers’ -- Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis -- resigned this week from UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s government in the wake of the compromise UK negotiating position on Brexit agreed by May’s Cabinet last Friday.

The resignations and a backbench revolt against May’s compromise, which is being seen as a ‘no-Brexit’ Brexit by hard-line Brexiteers, already concerned that May was pursuing too ‘soft’ a Brexit for their liking, have laid bare the long-standing deep divide in the governing Conservative Party over the nature of post-Brexit United Kingdom.

The resignations have made it more difficult for May to secure a parliamentary majority to back her plan, but equally her critics appear unable to muster the numbers needed to oust her as leader or to agree on a candidate to challenge her. Sufficient Conservative MPs worry about the instability that a leadership contest would cause – and the risk of the government falling -- to keep her in office.

Thus, the hard-line Brexiteers are – for now -- refocusing on toughening up May’s compromise, rather than replacing her. In either event, May looks to be weakened politically.

Join Oxford Analytica’s experts to discuss how the current political turmoil has changed the prospects for Brexit and the May government with the deadline for the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU now only nine months away. Whatever deal can be struck effectively needs to be done within five months at the latest if it is to be ratified by EU member states in time.

Among the questions we shall be tackling:

  • What impact will the UK leadership crisis have on the Brexit negotiations?
  • Will the EU toughen its stance on its key agenda items: the Irish border, EU citizen’s rights and the ‘divorce bill’?
  • Are there now alternative scenarios for the March 2019 Brexit deadline?
  • Should companies and investors now consider a ‘no deal’ Brexit to be their working assumption?
  • Would May survive a leadership challenge and who might replace her if she does not?
  • Would ousting May bring down the government?
  • If there was a UK election ‘tomorrow’, what would be the likely outcome?