May faces heavy pressure to step down to save Brexit


LONDON: Embattled Prime Minister Theresa May was scrambling on Sunday to win over adversaries to her Brexit withdrawal plan as key cabinet ministers denied media reports that they were plotting to oust her.

May was ensconced in a crisis meeting at her country residence Chequers with fellow Conservatives and outspoken Brexit advocates like Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and others who would prefer to leave the European Union without a divorce deal rather than delay Britain’s departure from the bloc further.

The prime minister has found her authority weakened after a series of setbacks in Parliament and her inability to win meaningful concessions from EU leaders who refuse to sweeten the Brexit deal.

The Sunday Times claims that 11 Cabi­net ministers plan to tell May to resign so a caretaker leader can be put in her place to kick start the stalled Brexit process. She faces growing pressure from within her own party either to resign or to set a date for stepping down as a way to build support for her Brexit plan.

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The confrontation may come to a head at a cabinet session expected on Monday (today). Under Conservative Party rules, May cannot face a formal leadership challenge from within her own party until December because she survived one three months ago. But she may be persuaded that her position is untenable if top Cabinet ministers and other senior party members desert her.

Despite headlines about a cabinet coup, there was no indication from Downing Street on Sunday that a resignation was near. Two of the people mentioned as possible successors Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington and Treasury chief Philip Hammond expre­ssed strong support for May. Hammond said on Sunday that senior party members plotting to oust May were being “self-indulgent”. He said a change of leadership would not provide a solution to the UK’s political deadlock on Brexit.

“We’ve got to address the question of what type of Brexit is acceptable to Parliament, what type of way forward Parliament can agree on so that we can avoid what would be an economic catastrophe of a no-deal exit and also what would be a very big challenge to confidence in our political system if we didn’t exit at all,” Hammond said.

Lidington, mentioned as a possible caretaker prime minister should May be ousted, said on Sunday that talk of a cabinet revolt was far-fetched speculation.

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