Theresa May Says She’ll Leave Once Brexit is Delivered

Brexit means May-exit.

Two days ago, we were wondering whether it was time for Theresa May to leave. It now appears that’s happening—but for the opposite rationale.

Bloomberg (“U.K.’s Theresa May Says She Will Step Down Once Brexit Delivered“):

Theresa May told a meeting of her Conservative Party she plans to step down once Brexit is delivered. Pro-Brexit lawmakers had called on May to set a date for her departure as way of securing support for her divorce agreement with Brussels.

[….]

Theresa May’s office has just released a partial transcript of her speech to rank-and-file Tory lawmakers and she made a very clear commitment to go.

“I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach — and new leadership — in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and I won’t stand in the way of that,” she told them. “I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.”

She then said that if they back her deal she will quit.

“I know some people are worried that if you vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush on into phase two without the debate we need to have,” she said. “I won’t — I hear what you are saying.”

The FT offers a series of reverse chronological order newlets under the headline “Theresa May offers to quit if MPs back her Brexit deal – latest news.” The most interesting ones in release order:

May offers her job to pass deal

Theresa May has told Tory MPs she will not stay on as prime minister to oversee future trade talks with the EU, in a last throw of the dice intended to persuade Eurosceptics to back her exit deal, reports the FT’s Laura Hughes, Sebastian Payne and George Parker. Mrs May made the dramatic offer to step down in the next few months in a meeting with Tory MPs at Westminster, after senior Tories said that setting a timetable for her departure was a prerequisite of winning support for her deal. Mrs May’s offer is intended to pave the way for a possible third vote on her exit deal in the next 48 hours, as it offers Tory Eurosceptics the hope that they can take over the second phase of exit talks. If Mrs May secures the passage of her deal it would suggest that she would step down over the summer, clearing the way for the coronation of a new Tory leader and prime minister in time for the party conference in October.

Extracts of the PM’s speech

Addressing the 1922 Committee this evening, Theresa May said:

This has been a testing time for our country and our party. We’re nearly there. We’re almost ready to start a new chapter and build that brighter future.

But before we can do that, we have to finish the job in hand. As I say, I don’t tour the bars and engage in the gossip – but I do make time to speak to colleagues, and I have a great team in the Whips’ Office. I also have two excellent PPSs.

And I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and I won’t stand in the way of that.

I know some people are worried that if you vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush on into phase two without the debate we need to have. I won’t – I hear what you are saying.

But we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit.

I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.

I ask everyone in this room to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty – to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit.”

Eulogies start for Mrs May

The FT’s Seb Payne says that the mood inside the 1922 meeting was one of “relief”, according to one MP.

“It was the best speech I’ve ever seen given to the committee,” said George Freeman. “There was huge respect for a a beautifully delivered speech.”

Another MP, Simon Hart, said she was “passionate about keeping the party together”, while Patrick McLoughlin, the former party chairman and transport secretary, praised the prime minister’s legacy and said she’d done a “wonderful job”.

She did not speak with a microphone but her voice cracked during the crucial part.

“I’ve never heard the 1922 so silent,” said one MP.

This reverses the rationale suggested Monday, when many thought May’s inability to get Parliament to back her Brexit deal meant her leadership had failed. Now, she’s essentially offering to stand down in exchange for their vote on the deal. It may well work. And, frankly, if it doesn’t she has so lost the confidence of the Commons that remaining PM would be pointless.

FILED UNDER: Europe, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    “I know some people are worried that if you vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush on into phase two without the debate we need to have,” she said. “I won’t — I hear what you are saying.”

    Oh, god, there’s a phase two?

    I’ll admit to not really following Brexit, as it’s just a colossal clusterfvck, but, I had hoped it would be over soon.

  2. grumpy realist says:

    I’ve given up on figuring out what is going on. Theresa May’s stepping down is going to set off an incredible catfight within the Tories which will be followed by all the newspapers….and it looks like Theresa May’s WA may slither through in spite of the screaming from the ERG. What this probably means is that we won’t have a splendid stock market crash. (Good.)

    I also suspect we’re going to see another 2 years of back and forth and confusion between the EU and the UK until everyone is even more bored with Brexit and hopes to never hear about it again.

    I think I’ve had enough of the topic, since it looks like the departure of the U.K. from the EU is going to be the equivalent of painfully pulling off a bandage veeerrrry ssssslllloooowwwwlllllyyyy. I’m not interested in keeping up with it for the next 5 years.

  3. JohnSF says:

    How unpredictable! How amazing!
    May announces intention to resign, Boris bloody Johnson declares sudden willingness to support her deal.
    The sheer purity of his lack of principle in pursuit of his leadership ambitions is awesome to behold.

  4. JohnSF says:

    Looks like the ERG are splitting; Rees-Mogg and Johnson now supportive of May deal. but Baker and the hardcore mad brexihadis still determined to oppose.
    DUP keeping quiet.
    Absent a rush to back May from Labour MP’s in Leave-majority constituencies I still don’t think she has the numbers.
    (Odds are they won’t break for the deal and incur Labour Party anger unless govt. whips can promise victory)

    Which leaves all to play for in the indicative votes going on now in Parlt. with a second stage on Monday.

    Petition to revoke now at 5,897,050 and still rising at a rate of thousands per minute.
    Govt have already issued a response which can be summarised as “sod off”.

    A mistake perhaps. The petitioners and the marchers are a very different demographic from the disgruntled Leaver core vote; though not party members, far more likely to vote and organize.

    There is an interesting mapping of petition votes on parliamentary constituencies, and reports of nervous neutral/soft leaver MP’s looking at it and saying “Bloody hell, that’s more than my majority!”

    Even if Leave win in Parliament, I feel that Remain will have their revenge in the longer term.

  5. Kathy says:

    Prime Minister for Life?

    What would Winston think?

  6. JohnSF says:

    @Kathy:
    “Prime Minister, we have some good news and some bad news.”
    “What’s the good news?”
    “You’ve been declared Prime Minister for life.”
    “What’s the bad news?”
    stab, stab, stabbity stab…

  7. JohnSF says:

    Incisive commentary on the buckling of half the ERG by Ian Dunt at politics.co.uk

    Chimes with my argument for some time: if May was more objective about the tactics required to get her deal through, what she needed to do was threaten the ERG with soft Brexit &/or Remain, then work the DUP problem by a mix of bribery and coercion.

    That she was neither conciliatory enough to forge a national consensus nor ruthless enough to drive home a partisan triumph will be her political epitaph.

    She never had the clarity to realise that merely pandering to Tory neuroses and fantasies might be good politics for a Minister, but poor strategy for a Prime Minister.

    Update: DUP confirm they still refuse support.
    May’s deal still a dead parrot.

  8. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    Well, one more year until the next ides of March.

  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    So Parliament just voted against every single proposed form of Brexit and also against no Brexit. The closest thing to passing was “Do something, but make the voters approve it first”. Parliament really doesn’t care what will happen, as long as they have credible deniability that it was their fault.

    As I said, it’s basically going to come down to the EU eventually refusing an extension, followed by a no deal exit, followed by the UK blaming the EU for everything bad that happens.

  10. JohnSF says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Yes, seems crazy at first sight. ( Well, it IS, especially because this should have been done BEFORE invoking Article 50…)
    But, if you listen to what Letwin and other organisers of the indicative voting said, this was expected. Always likely to be a series of indicative votes.

    All the main options raised over the past years were tabled, and MP’s able to vote yes or no to each. (Nice chart of vote results by Institute for Government)

    With govt. vote abstaining and Labour (trying) to whip for its’ preference.

    House had already voted for a second round on Monday; it looks like govt. will try to force yet another vote on it’s deal Friday but still looks like it lacks the numbers.

    So, Monday, they come back and eliminate the lowest ranked one(or two or three: no hard rules here it seems, basically improvisation), vote again. (Apparently they can keep doing this within House rules against repeated votes as the votes are not on a substantive motion. I think.)

    I’d bet (not much) on the outcome being a mix of CU/SM/CM2/Lab drafted to meet (well known and confirmed via backchannel) EU requirements for a hard redraft of the political agreement, with Withdrawal Agreement otherwise unchanged, and subject to a confirmatory referendum with a choice between Parlt. compromise and No Deal.
    The numbers are there, whereas for May’s deal they aint.

    Then Parlt. would need to play hardball: Force it down the throats of both govt. and ERG with menace of revocation if they play silly buggers. And tell the DUP to go play hopscotch in the Bogside.

  11. Hal_10000 says:

    There was a great op-ed from Applebaum arguing that May has been a terrible Prime Minister. Among other mistakes: invoking Article 50 immediately instead of waiting until they had a deal. The only reason she’s stayed in power at all is because Corbyn is such a repulsive looney-tune.

  12. An Interested Party says:

    What would Winston think?

    That a bunch of pathetic amateurs have followed in his footsteps…

  13. Andy says:

    I have some sympathy and empathy for her – she is in a thankless, impossible position. If it were me, I would have already quit.

  14. rachel says:

    @Andy: She chose to pick up that turd and spend the last 2-and-a-half years trying to make a sandwich out of it. My sympathy for her could fit through the eye of an embroidery needle.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    My god it’s like the worst traffic accident whatsoever. All eight options were rejected.

    Ever get the feeling that the Brits have turned into a nation of toddlers? It seems the only word they can put forth is “NO!!!”

  16. JohnSF says:

    @grumpy realist: This was expected.
    Oliver Letwin (point man for the indicative vote move) had publicly said this was likely to be the case given the voting system used.
    See my comment above.
    Also Ian Dunt has similar observations at politics.co.uk.
    See also Guardian articles.
    I actually think, for the first time in many months, there is at least some hope of a sensible outcome.

  17. Kathy says:

    Given how Cameron and then May have fared, I suggest she look up the Seinfeld episode where George decides “If all my instincts are wrong, then the opposite must be right.”

  18. Barry says:

    @Hal_10000: “There was a great op-ed from Applebaum arguing that May has been a terrible Prime Minister. Among other mistakes: invoking Article 50 immediately instead of waiting until they had a deal. The only reason she’s stayed in power at all is because Corbyn is such a repulsive looney-tune.”

    IIRC, the EU leadership wouldn’t negotiate until the UK invoked Article 50. IOW, they weren’t stupid.

    As for Corbyn, notice that in all of this mess, my understanding of UK politics is that May should have been gone a long time ago. The Tories seem to recognize that Brexit will be a disaster and none of them want to have their faces on the magazines and newpapers.

  19. Barry says:

    @Barry: Adding on, note that two years into the process the leadership of the UK is still indecisive, with the controlling block even now holding out for that unicorn.