- - Tuesday, May 21, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The removal trucks aren’t quite at Downing Street yet, but when President Trump visits Britain next month on a state visit, will Theresa May still be prime minister?

Conservative Party grandees want her to resign next month, whether her hapless EU withdrawal deal gets voted through Parliament on its fourth attempt or not. But will she even last that long?

Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn pulled out of cross-party talks last week because he doesn’t believe she will be in office long enough to see them through. Undeterred, the prime minister has just announced concessions could still be possible, including a limited customs union and second referendum, but only if that is what a future Parliament decides. It’s hard to see that going down well.

At Thursday’s EU elections, it is predicted Conservative candidates will be destroyed by Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party. A YouGov poll has his novices winning 34 percent of the vote, while the Tories are almost flat-lining in fifth place with 10 percent.

Whenever her own exit comes she will be leaving her party divided. A new Conservative leader would normally cause a bounce back in cohesion, for no other reason than its members’ fears of a Labor government getting elected. This time it will be much harder.



In the 2016 referendum, Mrs. May voted to remain in the EU and, following David Cameron’s speedy flight, Conservative MPs voted her in as prime minister. Like most in the U.K.’s political and media circles, Mrs. May was shocked that the public had chosen to leave.

She made it her responsibility to mitigate this assumed disaster by coming up with a deal that nominally supported Brexit while seeking a close new relationship with Brussels. Her former chief adviser, Nick Timothy, recently stated that “she saw Brexit as a damage limitation exercise.”

To the British public, she made bold proclamations like “Leave means leave” and “No deal is better than a bad deal,” but to her colleagues in Brussels she asked how much control would Britain have to cede to get a deal and how much will it cost? 39 billion and rising, apparently, but it was the control part that has really caused her downfall.

Not all Conservatives agreed with her strategy and, astonishingly, 34 cabinet ministers and aides have resigned over her stubbornly timid negotiating position. Even President Trump tried to give her some friendly tips on the art of the deal, but instead she brought in a cabal of unelected Europhile civil servants to advise her.

Bizarrely, Mrs. May’s biggest opposition comes from within her own party, as Labor is divided over its position on the EU. A brave cohort of Conservative dissenters led by Jacob Rees-Mogg combined with 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs from Northern Ireland, to successfully block her Brexit legislation.

However, the majority of Conservatives supported the prime minister’s policies, so, even after Mrs. May, voters will still hold the party responsible for blocking Brexit. Whereas Tory MPs on either side are busy blaming each other and that may prove unreconcilable.

Another reason it will be difficult to rebuild the party is the “Farage-factor” that is currently sweeping the nation with halls packed out everywhere for his rallies.

The spectacular rise of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party is truly phenomenal for it was only registered at the beginning of the year. Some Conservatives have already joined them, and more may be set to follow.

For years, the establishment has mocked and hated Mr. Farage in equal measure, so he has made a career out of defying them. After his shocking 2016 Brexit victory, he taunted the European Parliament members with “Well, you’re not laughing now.”

Theresa May certainly isn’t laughing after he described her as “the worst prime minister ever” and her EU deal as, “more like a surrender document from a nation that has been defeated in war”

It is rumored that President Trump has requested Mr. Farage attend his state dinner during his U.K. visit in June. What a shock it would be to their detractors to see both these controversial figures sitting together with the queen.

There is a lot that Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have in common. Like the president, Mr. Farage is a maverick who articulates problems that average people feel and then comes up with novel solutions to solve them. They also know how to beat the odds.

Over the years, Mr. Farage’s adversaries have learned the hard way not to underestimate him. David Cameron thought he could side-line him through the Brexit referendum as he was convinced his “Remainer” side would win.

Mr. Cameron is long gone, and Theresa May will be soon, but a bigger worry for the Conservative Party is just how many of its core voters have gone, too.

• Andrew Davies is a U.K.-based video producer and scriptwriter.

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