What does Theresa May's resignation mean for Brexit?
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- Theresa May's resignation means a new prime minister will soon be in charge of Brexit.
- Her successor is likely to be a committed Brexiteer who could opt to pursue a no-deal exit.
- Parliament is intractably divided on the issue meaning the current political deadlock is set to continue.
- Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories.
LONDON - Theresa May announced on Friday that she would stand down both as prime minister and Conservative party leader.In an emotional speech outside Downing Street, May said that she would quit as leader on Friday June 7, and resign as prime minister once her party had chosen her successor later this summer.Advertisement
The announcement means that a new leader will soon be in charge of either delivering Britain's exit from the European Union, or finding an alternative course.
Here's what May's resignation and the upcoming contest to replace her means for the the Brexit process.
The clock is still ticking
The most recent delay - agreed in April - means that Britain is now not due to leave the EU until the end of October.However, despite European Council President Donald Tusk urging the UK to "not waste this time," there has since been no real progress towards a negotiated exit from the EU.Talks between the government and the opposition Labour party collapsed after five weeks and May has since failed to even present the legislation required to implement Brexit to parliament.Advertisement
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As a result, British business leaders are increasingly concerned that the UK will sleepwalk into a no-deal Brexit, with some firms already starting to make fresh plans to stockpile goods.
Will May's resignation make a no-deal more likely?
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The government also has to make time for summer recess so MPs can take their annual July break.
With the upcoming results of the European Parliament elections likely to deliver a big victory for Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, and the Tories predicted to come in fifth place, the pressure from Conservative party members for their new leader to deliver a much harder exit from the EU will be intense.Most of the frontrunners to replace May have already flirted with the possibility of taking Britain through a no-deal Brexit, meaning the risks of such an outcome will now grow.Advertisement
Will the new prime minister force through a no-deal Brexit?
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However, whether a new prime minister would really want their introduction to the country to be as somebody pushing through an option that has only minority support in the country, and which would risk severe economic consequences, is another matter altogether.
Could parliament stop a no-deal Brexit?Advertisement
However, a nuclear option is available.
Should the next prime minister go for a no-deal Brexit, a combination of opposition MPs led by the Labour Party and Conservative MPs who oppose no-deal could, in theory, team up to bring down the government via a vote of no confidence.A significant number of Conservative MPs may well be willing to remove their own party from government. One Conservative ex-government minister told Business Insider this week that they'd take any action necessary to avoid no-deal.Advertisement
However, one factor that may prevent them from doing so is the fact that it would almost certainly trigger a general election, which could pave the way for a Labour-led government under Jeremy Corbyn.
So the Brexit deadlock will continue indefinitely?
UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor
MPs remain intractably divided over Brexit, with no apparent majority in this parliament for any alternative Brexit plan.And with the EU adamant that the current withdrawal deal is the only deal in town, it is unlikely that May's successor would be able to negotiate any substantially different deal.One possible way to break the impasse would be a new referendum. However, the majority of Conservative MPs and members are vehemently opposed to one, and would likely turn against any new leader who even considered it.Advertisement
Alternatively the new prime minister could decide to call a general election, particularly if they experience a honeymoon period with the public.
However, with opinion polls currently suggesting an election now would risk a Labour government, there is little appetite among Conservative MPs for an early election, at least until Brexit is resolved.Ultimately the new leader may decide that they have little choice but to do as May has twice done before - which is make one more trip to Brussels to request yet another delay to Brexit.Advertisement
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