LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May was clinging to power on Thursday after her final Brexit gambit backfired, overshadowing a European election that has shown a United Kingdom still riven over its divorce from the EU.
May’s departure will deepen the Brexit crisis as a new leader is likely to want a more decisive split, raising the chances of a confrontation with the European Union and an election that could usher in a socialist government.
In such a fluid situation, Britain faces an array of options including an orderly exit with a deal, a no-deal exit, an election or a second referendum that could ultimately reverse the 2016 decision to leave the EU.
May, who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the EU referendum, has repeatedly failed to get parliament’s approval for her divorce deal, which she pitched as a way to heal Britain’s Brexit divisions.
Her last gambit, offering a possible second referendum and closer trading arrangements with the EU, triggered a revolt by some Brexit-supporting ministers and triggered the resignation of the minister in charge of her parliamentary business.
On Thursday, with Britons voting in a European election in which pre-poll surveys suggested May’s Conservatives would be thrashed by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, May was digging in.
However, amid dissent across the Conservative Party, the government delayed the planned publication of legislation to enact May’s EU deal from Friday until June 3, in the hope that it could still be put to parliament on June 7.
LISTENING TO CONCERNS
May held separate meetings with her foreign and interior ministers. Amid suggestions that the proposed bill could be rewritten, her spokesman said she would listen to colleagues’ concerns.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that interior minister Sajid Javid had told May he could not vote for the bill because it went further than what senior ministers had agreed to in cabinet.