A long-running political drama reaches a predictable conclusion. Theresa May, the beleaguered prime minister of the United Kingdom makes a tearful announcement of her resignation. In her own words, her best efforts have failed to win the approval of parliament for her plan to leave the Economic Union.
The battle begins three years earlier, when the preceding prime minister David Cameron resigns after the loss of a referendum he called. In Cameron’s case his plan was to renegotiate terms of remaining in the EU. ‘The will of the people’ (TWOTP) as it became known by triumphant leave voters, forces his immediate resignation.
There follows a prolonged battle in parliament to implement TWOTP. Leaving the EU turns out to be impossible politically. Explanations are hotly disputed. The most vehement supporters of leaving are labelled Brexiteers. Those wanting to remain Remoaners.
The Guardian provided a timeline of six critical events building up to May’s resignation
11 July 2016
Theresa May is elected Conservative leader and, having backed remain, seeks to unite her party by appointing key leave figures to the cabinet, including Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, Liam Fox as trade secretary and David Davis as Brexit secretary.
2 October 2016
In her first conference speech, May states that ‘we are going to be a fully independent, sovereign country’ and implies the UK will leave the customs union and the single market.” Three months later, she delivers the Lancaster House speech that confirmed her red lines (non-negotiable.
8 June 2017
Having decided to call a snap general election in order to garner a majority that would allow her to push her Brexit vision through the Commons, a calamitous campaign results in the Conservatives losing their majority. That left May not only turning to the DUP in order to prop up her government but set the scene for the parliamentary deadlock that was to come.
6 July 2018
May gathers her warring cabinet at Chequers in a bid to set out a compromise negotiating position that has a chance of finding favour with the EU. But a perceived move towards a softer Brexit provokes an immediate backlash from the right of the party, prompting the resignations of Davis and Johnson from the cabinet and new plotting from ERG members.
13 March 2019
With her deal having been voted down by a crushing 230 majority when she first brought it before the Commons in January, May tries again with 19 days left until the original Brexit date. She is again humiliated when the deal is beaten by a majority of 149 votes, as the process becomes mired in parliamentary paralysis.
21 May 2019
After weeks of fruitless talks with Labour over a Brexit compromise, May launches her ‘new’ Brexit plan, with 10 commitments designed to address cross-party concerns about her withdrawal agreement bill. Cabinet agrees to the plan, but Andrea Leadsom resigns as the leader of the House of Commons. By the end of the week, May announces her departure.
The critical point seems to have been the rise of a new right- wing party led by Nigel Farage which threatens to score a remarkable success in the European parliamentary elections later this month, at the expense of the conservatives (who hope until too late they would
by then be out of the EU).
Runners and riders
The views of political pundits are to be found across the print and electronic media. A favoured metaphor is the of runners described as preparing for the off in the Grand National. The BBC’s Cornelius Lysaght, a racing commentator, describes a mock race from the starting gate ‘with Boris’ in the lead but followed by a field of over a dozen runners. The possibles in ‘The poisoned chalice trophy’ swell to around twenty in the days before the resignation.
I will try to keep a LWD diary over the course of race. Comments welcomed.
Sunday 25 May
The date when the results of the EU elections are announced …
To be continued