Verses: Is Britain Heading For A General Election?

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It’s back to the drawing board for Prime Minister Theresa May after her draft for Brexit, tabled at Friday’s Chequers retreat, resulted in the resignation of Brexit Minister David Davis, who says he simply does not “believe” in it, which in turn has lead to the resignation of foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

Mr Davis, who has been heading the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExUE) since July 2016, said he resigned because the UK was “giving away too much and too easily” in the negotiating process. But with the Conservative party still unable to agree on a Brexit strategy, how Brexit will actually look really is anybody’s guess.

Mr Davis’ exit also triggered the departure of Steve Baker, another minister in the Brexit department, who told the BBC that his department had essentially been “blindsided” and that the PM’s Brexit proposal at Chequers “did not accord” with the Brexit proposal that he, Davis and the whole of the DExUE had been working on.

There’s been talk that this commotion in the cabinet will spark a leadership contest, and possibly, even a general election. But how likely is that?

Theresa May speaks in the Commons. image from BBC

Game on

If someone told you at the beginning of 2018 that the summer would not only see England win the World Cup, but also a general election, you’d think they were mad. But with England safely into Wednesday’s semi-final and Theresa May’s government in disarray thanks to a fresh wave of resignations, both are now genuine possibilities.

The departure of the Brexit minister is likely to embolden Mrs May’s adversaries within the Conservative ranks, potentially sparking a chain reaction that could lead to a leadership challenge, and subsequently, a general election.

The assistant political editor of the BBC, Norman Smith, said of Davis’ resignation, “I think it’s a genuine bombshell moment… So febrile is the atmosphere at Westminster today, it’s quite possible that the part could stumble into a [leadership] contest by accident”.

Now, with Boris’ resignation, a contest looks very likely. “It’s very hard to see how this ends any other way” says Smith, “It’s not clear there is an obvious challenger beyond Boris Johnson” he added, but Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Jacob Rees Mogg could all still be potential contenders.

Before the Conservatives have even embarked on a leadership contest, the bookies have already slashed the odds on a general election being called.

Boris and Leo Johnson. Photo by The Financial Times

Strong and Stable

Put that champagne on the ice, though, and wheel David Dimbleby back into the cupboard, because as things stand, Theresa May is still very much the leader of the Conservative party and is still very much in charge as the Prime Minister.

Grant Shapps, a Conservative MP has said of Mrs May’s Brexit strategy, that “I think it delivers most of what people want, you’re never going to get everything but I understand why for David Davis and BJ that’s difficult but I don’t think we should be distracted as a country into thinking ‘oh my goodness the next thing we need to do is go into a complete turmoil of a leadership election’ at this time”

He added that “I’m simply saying there is not time to do that and finish off this negotiation with Europe, we cannot have both”.

Meanwhile, Brussels looks on in horror, are rather, utter bemusement, as the Conservative cabinet continue to blindside, undercut, and desert one another, perilously close to the March 2019 deadline for Brexit. Michel Barnier has said that given the commotion, “How can we build trust and start discussing our future relationship?”

Two years on from the referendum, the ‘hardness’ of the UK’s exit from the European Union looks to be decided by a Conservative party leadership contest with Boris in the ‘hard’ corner and Theresa May in the ‘slightly softer’ one.

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