Theresa May is currently busy trying to work out a way to get her Brexit deal through Parliament. Should the Prime Minister succeed in the coming weeks, No. 10 will then move to the daunting task of somehow getting all the accompanying legislation through. Both of these tasks are regarded as incredibly difficult yet even if May does succeed on both counts, she will receive little in the way of peace as a reward.
Talk in government has already turned to May’s exit date. Although the Prime Minister is technically immune from challenge for a year after winning a December confidence vote, ministers believe she will go before the year is out. In some quarters, members of government are eyeing up as swift an exit for the Prime Minister as the end of May. Coffee House understands that Cabinet sources believe May would be best served to stay on until the local elections in May and leave office soon after. This would allow for a summer leadership election.
However, there is scepticism that May would agree to such a plan. Aides around the Prime Minister insist that she still has a domestic agenda to enact and if she can get a Brexit deal through she will have earned the right to do that. The problem is any deal that goes through is only the first half of the negotiations done – then the government will move on to negotiating the future relationship. There is sufficient anger in government at the mistakes made over the past two years that ministers do not wish to risk May leading the second half of the talks. The second round of talks won’t get properly under way until there’s a new European Commission in place meaning that a May departure and subsequent leadership contest should allow enough time that a new Prime Minister is in place in time for the start of round two.
Outside of a confidence vote there are ways to try and speed up a prime minister’s departure – including mass cabinet resignations. However, this may not be necessary – senior government figures believe it could be enough to tell May they would prefer she leave soon with dignity rather than risk an embarrassing defeat in a vote of no confidence at the end of the year.