Last days of May? UK leader in peril as Brexit offer slammed

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LONDON (AP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a chorus of calls Wednesday to rip up her tattered Brexit blueprint and call an end to her embattled premiership after her attempt at compromise got the thumbs-down from both her own Conservative Party and opposition lawmakers.

May received a flurry of criticism and hostile questions in the House of Commons as she implored lawmakers to support a bill implementing Britain’s departure from the European Union that she plans to put to a vote in Parliament in June.

Almost three years after British voters opted to leave the EU, May said “we need to see Brexit through, to honor the result of the referendum and to deliver the change the British people so clearly demanded.”

She said that if Parliament rejected her deal, “all we have before us is division and deadlock.”

That’s a fair summary of the current situation.

Lawmakers have already rejected May’s divorce deal with the other 27 EU countries on three occasions, and Britain’s long-scheduled departure date of March 29 passed with the country still in the bloc.

In a last-ditch bid to secure support for her Brexit plan, May on Tuesday announced concessions including a promise to give Parliament a vote on whether to hold a new referendum on Britain’s EU membership – something she has long ruled out.

“I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too,” she said.

But there was little sign her plea was being heeded. Pro-EU and pro-Brexit lawmakers have only hardened their positions during months of political trench warfare, and are in no mood to compromise.

Pro-Brexit Conservatives accused May of capitulating to pro-EU demands, and opposition Labour Party lawmakers dismissed her offer as too little too late.

“The rhetoric may have changed but the deal has not,” said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“She did not seek a compromise until after she had missed her own deadline to leave, and by the time she finally did she had lost the authority to deliver.”

May’s authority as Conservative leader has been shredded by her loss of the party’s parliamentary majority in a 2017 election and her failure to lead Britain out of the EU as promised.

The party’s powerful euroskeptic wing wants to oust May and replace her with a staunch Brexit supporter such as Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary.

May has said she will announce a timetable for her departure once Parliament has voted on her Brexit bill. But with defeat of that bill looking highly likely, a growing number of Conservatives is pressing her to cancel the vote and quit even sooner.

May survived a no-confidence vote among Conservative lawmakers in December, leaving her safe from challenge for 12 months under party rules.

Brexit-backing lawmaker Nigel Evans said he would urge the party committee that oversees leadership contests to change the rules when it meets Wednesday so that May can face a new challenge within days.

“There is a growing discontent with the way Theresa May has handled this,” Evans said.

“Let’s have somebody who has a clean sheet and will be able to reboot the (Brexit) negotiations.”

Pressure on May is likely to increase when results come in from this week’s European Parliament elections, in which the Conservatives expect to receive a drubbing.

Many British voters on both sides of the Brexit debate look set to use the election to the EU legislature to express displeasure over the country’s political gridlock. Opinion polls show strong support for the single-issue Brexit Party – largely from angry former Conservative voters – and for pro-EU parties including the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

The election is being held Thursday in Britain, but results won’t be announced until all 28 EU countries have finished voting late Sunday.

May indicated she would try to battle on. She said the Brexit withdrawal bill would be published Friday so that lawmakers can study it.

Despite speculation that May will scrap plans to bring it to a vote to avoid a crushing defeat, Downing St. said a vote will be held during the week of June 3.

“In time, another prime minister will be standing at this despatch box,” May told lawmakers, acknowledging that her days in the job are numbered.

But, she told Parliament, “in the end our job in this House is to take decisions, not to duck them.

“So I will put those decisions to this House. Because that is my duty and because it is the only way that we can deliver Brexit.”

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Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of Prime Ministers Questions in Parliament in London, Wednesday, May 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
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