Ministers want Theresa May to announce timeline for departure

Some of cabinet believe she should pave way for Tory leadership contest in summer

Brexiteers inside and outside of the cabinet believe new leadership is needed for the next phase of Brexit negotiations. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Brexiteers inside and outside of the cabinet believe new leadership is needed for the next phase of Brexit negotiations. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

 

Senior members of British prime minister Theresa May’s cabinet want her to step down after the local elections in May and allow a new leader to deliver the next phase of the Brexit negotiations, it has been reported.

Leading ministers have suggested they want the prime minister to leave shortly after the first phase of the Brexit negotiations finishes – or risk being defeated in a vote of no confidence at the end of the year.

Mrs May wants to stay in place for long enough after Brexit to secure a political legacy beyond the negotiations. But some ministers believe she should announce the timeline for her departure “on a high” after the local election results, paving the way for a Conservative leadership contest over the summer.

Brexiteers in her cabinet are keen to see a new leader take over for the next stage of the negotiations with the EU, which Mrs May has already pledged will involve more active involvement for politicians rather than advisers.

The hardening mood among cabinet ministers on the timeline for her departure will place further pressure on Mrs May before a critical week of Brexit talks and votes amid a febrile climate in Westminster.

Ministers who want her to go are confident that if Brexit can be delivered on time on March 29th, the party should be able to secure some promising results in the local elections that would provide a face-saving context for her early departure.

Year’s grace

Mrs May pledged to Conservative MPs before the confidence vote in December that she would stand aside before 2022, though later made it clear she intended to stand should there be a snap election.

The prime minister has a year’s grace before another confidence vote could be called. Should she refuse to go this year, at least one cabinet minister has said they believe she would be ousted by another confidence vote if one were called at the end of the year.

Her position could become untenable sooner if enough senior colleagues were to resign or publicly express their dissatisfaction with her leadership.

Although Brexiteers inside and outside of the cabinet, as well as former remainers who have now embraced leaving, believe new leadership is needed for the next phase of negotiations, it is unlikely they will coalesce around a single candidate.

Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt, as well as Boris Johnson, David Davis and Dominic Raab are all likely to want to test their support bases among MPs, whereas Tories from the softer wing of the party are more likely to coalesce around one name, Amber Rudd. However, a Brexiteer is likely to be far more popular with the membership. – Guardian News and Media