On Wednesday night British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she’d won her cabinet’s backing for her draft proposal on how the U.K. should pull out of the European Union (Brexit). At the time May appeared upbeat and optimistic.
Then on Thursday morning everything turned around. May’s Brexit secretary quit along with another member of her cabinet and several junior ministers. All of a sudden the entire British government was in turmoil, and May’s entire Brexit strategy is now in doubt.
The secretary who quit, Dominic Raab, had been leading her negotiating team in Brussels to hammer out the Brexit draft with the European Union.
Raab said the draft agreement reached with Brussels would have the effect of leaving Britain in a position where they must follow the rules and regulations of the European Union. It even gave the EU the power to stop the U.K. from withdrawing from the agreement in the future. He said he could not “in good conscious support the terms” of the deal that he helped to write.
Unfortunately for May, Raab wasn’t the only member of her government to resign on Thursday. Her Junior Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara, junior Brexit minister Suella Braverman, and parliamentary private secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan also stepped down, adding to the feelings of chaos.
Each government official who resigned said that he or she could not support the 600-page draft Brexit agreement that May presented to her cabinet on Wednesday. They made clear that everyone considered it “insufficient” including Brexit backers and those who want to stay in the EU.
The next step for the Brexit deal is to get the British Parliament to approve it. However, it’s unclear whether May has the numbers to push it through at this time. It’s also unclear whether she will be able to remain in office long enough to bring the new deal to a parliamentary vote.
The ministers who resigned on Thursday joined the 10 others who had resigned from May’s government over the last year. With chaos growing, it appears more likely that there will be a challenge to her leadership. If that happens it is very possible that there would be a new Prime Minister within a fairly short time frame.
May spoke to lawmakers on Thursday morning and she appeared firm in her resolve. She told her audience that they would have the opportunity to vote on the Brexit deal before the U.K. leaves the EU. She reiterated that she would ask them to support it because it is “in the national interest.”
In her remarks to Parliament she made the argument that her draft agreement with the EU represented, “the right choices, not the easy ones.”
May also confirmed that she is adamant that her government is not planning for any alternative that does not include a British exit from the European Union.