LONDON • Theresa May (picture) dismissed questions about her future and pledged to be the prime minister (PM) to take the UK out of the European Union (EU), even as her Brexit plans face wide opposition.
The deal May sealed last Sunday with the EU looks certain to be rejected by Parliament in a Dec 11 vote, an outcome that one member of her Cabinet signalled on Saturday could lead to a second referendum on Britain’s membership.
It’s a result that would also put in danger her leadership of the Conservative Party — and of the country.
“There’s a lot more for me still to do, not least delivering on Brexit and being the PM that does take the UK out of the EU,” May told reporters in Buenos Aires where a Group of 20 (G-20) summit concluded on Saturday.
“The next nine days are a really important time for our country, leading up to the vote on this deal.”
May spent two days at the summit discussing stronger trade ties with allies who will be important to showing there are benefits to Britain’s EU departure, including Australia, Japan, Canada and Chile. She didn’t meet with US President Donald Trump after he suggested earlier in the week that her Brexit deal might make it hard to strike a trade agreement with the world’s biggest economy.
Trouble at Home
But it’s back home that the premier faces her biggest problem: She needs the approval of Parliament in order to pursue her Brexit strategy, and lawmakers don’t look like giving it. All Opposition parties say they’ll oppose May’s deal, as do her allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and about 100 members of her own Conservatives.
Passing the deal “will take us to certainty for the future”, May said. “Failure to do that would only lead to uncertainty.”
The front pages of the Sunday newspapers added to the sense of the PM being cornered.
Citing previously unpublished legal advice from the attorney general, the Sunday Times reported Britain would be trapped indefinitely” in a customs union with Brussels if MPs back her deal. The Telegraph said the DUP will join Labour and other Opposition parties in a bid to force the government to publish its legal advice on Brexit.
And the Observer said a group of key Labour Party officials within Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow Cabinet is urging the party to be ready to campaign for a possible second Brexit referendum, something May has repeatedly shot down.
The ranks of opponents to May’s deal were swelled late last Friday by the resignation of Science Minister Sam Gyimah, who slammed her Brexit deal in a lengthy Facebook post.
Under May’s deal, Britain has “surrendered our voice, our vote and our veto”, wrote Gyimah, who supported Remain in the 2016 referendum. “We shouldn’t dismiss out of hand the idea of asking the people again what future they want, as we all now have a better understanding of the potential paths before us.”
Gyimah is the 22nd ministerial resignation since last year’s election.
While Brexit-supporting Tories have been the most vociferous antagonists of the deal, which they say would turn Britain into a “vassal” state of the EU, Gyimah joins a growing group of pro-European Conservatives suggesting a fresh referendum.
Another Tory to broach the chance of another vote was Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, who appeared to go off-message, suggesting that if Parliament rejects May’s agreement with the EU, it could lead to a second referendum.
The alternatives “don’t look attractive”, he told BBC radio on Saturday.
“They are essentially either we leave with no deal, which would have serious economic consequences, or we say to the British public: ‘I’m sorry you got it wrong, you’re going to have to do it again’, which I think would have serious democratic consequences.”