Britain's Brexit crisis is now critical for Theresa May

That's right, Britain's governing Conservative Party is having another leadership crisis. It must be because it's Mon...

Posted: Jan 29, 2018 7:50 PM
Updated: Jan 29, 2018 7:50 PM

That's right, Britain's governing Conservative Party is having another leadership crisis. It must be because it's Monday.

Just over a year ago, when British Prime Minister Theresa May gave her uncompromising Brexit speech at London's Lancaster House, the hardline Brexiteers were sure they had won.

It's worth remembering how uncompromising it was. Britain's best-selling Sun newspaper dwelt on her threat to withdraw security cooperation with the EU, if Brussels didn't give Britain a favorable exit deal. "PM's Brexit Threat to EU: Your Money or Your Lives," screamed the headline.

But then she called the election to win a mandate to take back control of "our laws, our borders and our money" -- and lost.

Instead of basking in triumph at Downing Street, she now clings to power because her party, like her country, is split down the middle. Her own Chancellor (finance minister) and Home Secretary, to say nothing of the civil service, wholly oppose her policy, but are too weak to change it either.

Too weak -- but not silent. Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, told an audience of ultramontane globalists at Davos that he hoped to make only "modest changes" to Britain's relationship with the EU.

But this has given Brexiteers the right to ask what's the point of going to all the trouble of leaving the EU, only to end up with "modest changes"?

Whatever happened to what is, after all, UK government policy of taking back control of borders, laws and money? What if it wasn't just her belligerent language on security that had been replaced by a far wiser unconditional guarantee to come to Europe's military aid? What if her whole Brexit policy was coming unstuck? The Brexiteers had to make their presence felt before it was too late.

If the Chancellor's intervention provided the pretext, the EU's own negotiation guidelines provide the real reason: Brexit will take time to implement, and this has given rise to the notion of a "transition period." The term's a misnomer. Everyone has always known that far from a smooth gradation towards Brexit, it is just a delay of most of its effects.

The EU is prepared to grant Britain a so-called transition -- but on the condition that EU law continues to apply to the UK while it goes on and Britain does not get a vote in European institutions. Brexiteers have finally decided that this, which had been acceptable to them this summer, is now a concession too far.

It would, said anti-European leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man whose effete demeanor disguises fanaticism of Cromwellian intensity, render Britain a "vassal state."

The hardliners are afraid their country would end up in a gilded cage. By keeping disruption to a minimum, it would prove far too convenient to extend such a status indefinitely (they overlook that the EU itself has said it can't go beyond 2020). This Eunuch Brexit, which was supposed to make Britons tough and free, would have achieved the exact opposite.

Hammond's unguarded remarks gave the hardliners an excuse to launch their latest rising.

The instrument this time was Graham Brady, the MP who chairs the Conservative backbench group the 1922 committee and must trigger a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister if he receives 48 letters from Tory MPs saying they would like one.

Pretending he was concerned for her safety -- but obviously communicating the reverse -- he let it be known that the number was awfully close to the threshold. Nice leadership you've got there, shame if anything would happen to it. Can I interest you in some Brexit insurance, Madam?

Still, this Brexit mob has been living off the reputation it gained in the 1990s, when it subjected then Prime Minister John Major's government to legislative guerrilla warfare.

The current crop are, by comparison, soft. They plead loyalty to the Prime Minister. They have accepted concessions on everything from Northern Ireland to budget contributions and even the role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing elements of British law that they had previously insisted were unthinkable.

The rules to replace a Conservative leader -- who at the moment is also the Prime Minister -- eventually work in the hardliners' favor. The final decision is made by party members, who will vote for the most pro-Brexit of candidates.

But before that they have to win the vote of no confidence in the incumbent. There's every risk that they would lose it, and be left with their worst nightmare -- a weak prime minister hostage not to them, but to the MPs who voted remain and favor a softer Brexit.

The hardliners need her to resign before the confidence vote can take place, and for that they need some of her cabinet ministers to walk out. The ministers will have to do so under the shadow of the ancient rule of leadership contests: He who wields the dagger never wears the crown.

If they are to remove May, at least two cabinet ministers will have to sacrifice their ambitions to replace her. Unless they discover such courage, May will keep going, as though she herself were one of Margaret Thatcher's policy programs: Because there is no alternative.

Huntsville
Overcast
51° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 51°
Florence
Broken Clouds
49° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 47°
Fayetteville
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 50°
Decatur
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 50°
Scottsboro
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 50°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 363466

Reported Deaths: 4541
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby47682658
Davidson42703420
Knox18764149
Rutherford17749161
Hamilton16701152
Williamson1140080
Sumner9744137
Out of TN758152
Wilson748178
Montgomery658683
Sullivan643996
Washington6000106
Putnam591382
Maury584267
Blount549160
Madison5349110
Bradley519735
Sevier484831
Unassigned468222
Robertson377453
Tipton365938
Hamblen345560
Gibson323365
Dyer320751
Greene308272
Anderson294629
Dickson289133
Coffee281841
Bedford275630
Carter272455
Lawrence270034
Obion265950
Cumberland257236
McMinn252355
Warren240020
Roane235229
Loudon228019
Jefferson226932
Fayette225338
Hardeman224737
Weakley216937
Monroe212744
Franklin208634
Lauderdale205023
Hawkins194934
Wayne192010
Trousdale190512
Henderson185133
Macon184028
Hardin178125
White176918
Carroll174734
Marshall174420
Rhea169731
Haywood162930
Lincoln161215
Cocke160630
Cheatham158617
Overton154335
Campbell154223
Henry153619
Giles146949
Smith143819
Johnson141621
McNairy140233
Fentress121920
Hickman118219
Lake11766
Bledsoe11745
DeKalb115822
Crockett115526
Marion109819
Scott10727
Chester102520
Grainger101217
Decatur95513
Unicoi85826
Claiborne8369
Benton81314
Grundy77714
Cannon7663
Lewis76314
Morgan7306
Union7195
Humphreys7098
Jackson68410
Polk66515
Stewart59415
Houston58720
Clay55318
Sequatchie5285
Meigs48913
Perry48321
Moore3963
Pickett39013
Van Buren3672
Hancock1673

Community Events