Theresa May ‘preparing for departure’

PM faces pressure to go ahead of crunch meeting with 1922 Committee chair

(Image credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

After months of stubborn resistance, Theresa May is expected to bow to the inevitable today, naming a date for her departure amid a growing Brexit backlash from her own MPs and a disastrous European election campaign for the Conservatives.

Following the dramatic resignation of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom on the eve of yesterday’s vote in protest at the offer to MPs of a second referendum vote, the prime minister is due to meet Sir Graham Brady, chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, this morning.

The aftermath of that meeting is likely to “shed some light on whether May will be forced out or able to go on her own terms”, says Metro.

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But The Daily Telegraph says “her fate may have already been sealed by the committee’s executive members, who have held a secret ballot on whether to change the party rules and hold an immediate confidence vote on her leadership”.

The votes have aleady been cast and the results will be revealed “unless May agrees to specify a date for her departure”, says the paper. According to The Guardian, the committee has agreed in principle to change the rules if the prime minister fails to quit by 10 June.

“Two Cabinet ministers today told me that if she can hang on until the beginning of next month, she ought to keep going, and keep trying to move Brexit forward,” reports BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, “but others are now utterly convinced that she can’t last beyond this weekend’s European elections”.

The ongoing crisis “deepened after she was forced to shelve the publication of - and vote on - her Brexit bill”, says The Independent.

MPs were told the government now hopes to reveal the detail of the withdrawal agreement bill in the first week of June, not on Friday, as May originally promised.

“It suggests that rather than caving to the demands of her backbenchers, May will attempt to rewrite her Brexit deal in order to cling to power,” says the Telegraph.

She has “been obdurate through one of the most tumultuous premierships of recent British history”, says Reuters, “but had promised to leave office if lawmakers approved her Brexit deal.” Now she is “under intense pressure to name a date” regardless of what happens with Brexit.

One option is for May resign as Conservative leader on Friday to allow a competition to replace her, while carrying on as prime minister during the contest, which could last six to eight weeks.

“Such a competition is likely to favour strong Leave supporters such as Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Penny Mordaunt and Andrea Leadsom over former remainers such as Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and Matt Hancock,” says The Guardian.

While some MPs have said May has not yet accepted that her tenure in Downing Street is over, one commentator suggested that the PM has a specific date in mind.

“I know this sounds a frivolous point but I don’t think it is,” Matthew Parris told Sky News. “She’ll overtake Gordon Brown on Tuesday. I do think that’s important to leaders. She doesn’t want to be right near the bottom. She’ll move one up.”

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