May faces leadership challenge if she softens Brexit

Published: 4:00 AM, June 19, 2017

British Prime Minister Theresa May will face an immediate leadership challenge from eurosceptic lawmakers in her party if she seeks to water down her plans for Brexit, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing senior Conservative sources.

Prompted by her poor election showing, particularly among pro-EU young people who fear losses of jobs and opportunities from Brexit, some of her most senior ministers and two former Conservative prime ministers have called for a rethink.

“If we had a strong signal that she were backsliding, I think she would be in major difficulty,” the newspaper quoted one unidentified former minister as saying.

“The point is she is not a unifying figure any more. She has really hacked off the parliamentary party for obvious reasons. So I’m afraid to say there is no goodwill towards her.”

The newspaper quoted another former minister as saying: “If she weakened on Brexit, the world would fall in ... all hell would break loose.”

Mrs May called the election in a bid to increase her majority and strengthen her hand within her party ahead of the Brexit talks. But the unexpected weak performance has left her battling to unite both wings of the Conservative Party — those who want a so-called “hard Brexit” and those who did not want to leave the EU in the first place.

The Sunday Times said ministers within her Cabinet had “let it be known” they would oust the prime minister if they thought she could not pass the government’s legislative programme in a vote expected on June 28.

The Times also reported that party members who had campaigned to keep Britain in the EU were likely to have a candidate lined up to replace Mrs May, with interior minister Amber Rudd the likely option. REUTERS