In the House of Commons today, Theresa May indicated that she would quit as Prime Minister if the UK hadn’t left the EU by the 30th of June. She was, in effect, suggesting that if MPs vote down her deal again next week, they’ll be making her departure from Downing Street more likely.
But this is the opposite of the promise many Tories want her to give. A growing number of senior figures in the party believe that May should say that she’ll go if her deal passes. In other words, vote for the deal and then you can pick a new Prime Minister. They believe that this carrot might entice some Brexiteer rebels to back the deal.
I report in the forthcoming issue of The Spectator, on all good newsstands tomorrow, that when Boris Johnson saw Theresa May yesterday, he asked her what would change in the second phase of the negotiations. May replied that the Brexit department and its Secretary of State would have more autonomy. But promising this kind of organisational change won’t win May many, if any, votes. Rather, what is needed from May is for her to promise to stand down if the withdrawal agreement passes.
If a pledge from May to go would get the agreement over the line—delivering an orderly and relatively timely withdrawal—it would be irresponsible of her not to offer it.