It was confirmed on Tuesday that May would bring the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before the House of Commons in the first week of June, in a last-ditch attempt to put her Brexit deal with Brussels into law, thus cementing her legacy as the PM that finally took the UK out of the European Union.
Quite a lot is going to happen between now and then. First, the UK must hold elections to the European Parliament next week. Given that Theresa May is being held responsible for Brexit not having happened yet, her governing Conservative Party is widely expected to receive a drubbing. Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party (take a wild guess at its main policy) is currently tipped to win in the UK, and other, smaller parties are also expected to perform well.
Second, on June 6 there will be a significant election in the parliamentary constituency of Peterborough. Though it’s possible the Brexit vote will happen before the vote — known in Britain as a by-election — both main parties will have to stomach daily polls predicting the Brexit Party’s first ever parliamentary candidate. This could be unpleasant, given the party will be campaigning with its tail up following its probable success in European elections.
The Prime Minister’s logic might be that by early June, both Conservative and Labour MPs will be suitably scared into taking Brexit off the table.
It’s not the worst plan in the world, or it wouldn’t be if it didn’t appear quite so desperate.
The thing is, since May’s deal was voted down a third time on March 29 — which, incidentally, was the day the UK was supposed to leave the EU — opposition to her deal has been strengthened. Not just from Brexiteers who think her deal is far too soft, but also from Remainers, who have been smelling blood ever since the first Brexit deadline was missed.
For May to pull it off would be nothing short of a minor political miracle. We have seen time after time that not only does parliament not have a majority for her deal, but there’s not majority for any other Brexit plan. Meanwhile, supporters of no deal and those who want Brexit scrapped altogether both think they are winning the argument, despite both facing huge opposition in Parliament.
So why is May doing this? She might be confirming the suspicions of many in Westminster that June could be her last month as Prime Minister. She has already said that if her deal is passed, she will step aside at an appropriate time and let someone else deal with phase two of Brexit.
If it doesn’t pass, then goodness knows what she is hanging on for. Her party is gasping for her to go and given that Parliament is barely fit for purpose at the moment, it’s hard to see to see what, exactly, her government is trying to govern.
What does all this mean? We are very likely seeing May’s last weeks at the helm of the UK. With a deal, without a deal, she will probably have to go — and sooner rather than later.
And whatever happens, she will leave behind her a political mess that no one knows how to solve. As things stand, no one involved in British politics sincerely believes we will get to the end of Brexit without another general election.
She probably can’t wait to be rid of the whole thing.
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