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.