Rebels should think of consequences before launching coup

Morning View
Morning View

Theresa May’s position as prime minister hasn’t looked this vulnerable since that disastrous night in June last year, when she unexpectedly lost her majority at the general election.

Mrs May managed to recover from what then appeared to be mortal wounds, but her leadership now faces a crisis every bit as grave.

Ironically, in the hours after a compromise cabinet agreement on Brexit was struck at Chequers last Friday, it appeared that those cabinet figures who favoured a hard Brexit might have been willing to back Mrs May’s soft version.

But things have now unravelled very quickly for the prime minister.

First, Brexit secretary David Davis resigned, citing that he didn’t want to be public face of the Chequers deal which would see Britain retaining access to part of the single market after it leaves the European Union.

Mrs May could perhaps have shrugged off the loss of one cabinet ‘big beast’, but yesterday afternoon No 10 confirmed in a brief statement that Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, had also quit. Mr Johnson’s resignation letter, when it was released, was predictably blistering, accusing Mrs May of “heading for a semi-Brexit” and that her plans would leave Britain a “colony”.

It remains to be seen what happens next. Brexiteers are weighing up a coup, with 48 letters needed from MPs to demand a vote of no confidence in Mrs May’s leadership.

The rebels should think carefully before they act and trigger more blood-letting. There is no obvious successor to Mrs May and they could yet start a process that could spiral out of control and eventually lead to the worst outcome for their own party, and indeed the UK as a whole - Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, in Downing Street.

A tough week looms for Mrs May. Donald Trump, the US president, is visiting the UK. He will be meeting an embattled prime minister.