LONDON — A group of Conservative MPs wants to bring down the prime minister.
The Sunday Times reported that a group of hard-Brexit MPs are preparing a coup against Theresa May that would trigger an unscheduled snap election in October. They are unhappy that May’s current proposals for leaving the EU will keep the UK closely aligned with Europe’s customs union, a trade framework that would require Britain to follow many European laws. One told The Times:
“The numbers are against us and if we face repeated defeats when the [EU] withdrawal bill returns to the Commons, the only alternative will be to kick over the table and trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister, which will likely lead to another general election.”
It is telling that this MP declined to be named on the record. They don’t have the cojones to go public with the plot against their own leader.
Business Insider’s Adam Bienkov has repeatedly reported on the plot against May and his sources are also too shy to speak aloud. That suggests the anti-May group number far fewer than the 48 they need to trigger a vote against their own leadership.
Another clue is at the beginning of that quote: “The numbers are against us.” The House of Commons as a whole has a large pro-Remain majority. Those MPs would vastly prefer a soft Brexit that keeps the UK close to Europe, and not the disjointed cliff-plunge favoured by the hardcore Brexiteers who want May gone.
This is May’s problem: She needs the support of her own eurosceptic MPs to survive, but in order to get her EU withdrawal package through the Commons she will likely need the votes of MPs outside her party.
That’s why the coup plotters are going nowhere. If they topple May, they risk the following events:
- A general election that might see Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn elected prime minister.
- That scenario could result in a softer Brexit than the one May is planning.
- Even so, it would leave the right of the Tory party with no influence on the Article 50 talks.
- And it could cripple the government just five months before the Article 50 exit deadline.
- That timetable might force “Prime Minister Corbyn” to retract the Article 50 request or extend its period.
- The other alternative is for the UK to drop out of the EU with no deal in March 2019 — the very worst scenario, economically.
The anti-May plotters might actually prefer that last outcome. It’s the only way their kamikaze tactics make sense, and it explains why so few other MPs are supporting them.
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