LONDON. – Theresa May has been told by Conservative MPs that she has until 16:00 (UK time) this afternoon to spell out her resignation plans, or risk being forced out of office within weeks.
The prime minister was reportedly told by the chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, Sir Graham Brady, that she must now spell out a detailed “road map” for her departure, following the party’s dire performance in last week’s local elections.
May is currently only committed to quitting once she has passed a Brexit deal through the Parliament – an event which currently looks unlikely and could take many months.
Current Conservative party rules also state that she cannot be forced out of office until December this year.
However, if May refuses to spell out the details of her departure plans today, then the executive of the 1922 has the power to change leadership election rules, meaning Conservative MPs could hold a no-confidence vote in the prime minister which could see her leaving office within weeks.
Allies of May have reportedly threatened to challenge any change in the rules in court, risking a deeply damaging legal battle between May and her own MPs.
The prime minister’s Deputy David Lidington also signaled yesterday that she would stay at least until the summer recess, meaning any leadership contest would unlikely be completed until the autumn.
Business Insider reported last month that a growing number of Conservative MPs believed that May would hang on as prime minister and party leader until the party’s autumn conference at the end of September.
The fresh attempts to oust May come amid growing expectation that May could make an offer to Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn to accept a “soft” Brexit deal which would keep the United Kingdom inside a customs union with the European Union until at least the next general election.
Talks between the two parties will continue today following what Downing Street described as “constructive and detailed” discussions last night.
However, hopes of an imminent breakthrough have been dismissed by senior Labour sources, who have told Business Insider that the government has yet to make a meaningful offer to them, which goes significantly beyond the government’s existing Brexit policy.
The row over May’s future comes as her potential successors spell out their own leadership ambitions.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, said she was “seriously considering standing” to be prime minister.
Leadsom came in second place to May in the last race for Conservative leader in 2016 and remains popular with Conservative MPs and activists, largely due to her support for leaving the EU without a Brexit deal if necessary.
Friends of the senior Conservative have told Business Insider that Leadsom has been mulling a second leadership bid for weeks and has been urged to run by supporters who say the other Brexiteers in the race are unimpressive.
Other figures expected to enter the contest when it begins include Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, and a number of lesser known Conservative MPs like Johnny Mercer. – Business Insider