By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
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May hangs by a thread as Tory Brexit fallout gets nasty

This article is over 6 years, 7 months old
Issue 2580
Theresa May addresses the bosses CBI. But even some of them dont think shes up to the job
Theresa May addresses the bosses’ CBI. But even some of them don’t think she’s up to the job (Pic: Number 10 on Flickr)

Theresa May was losing her grip over her own party as MPs prepared to debate the European Union (EU) Withdrawal Bill on Tuesday.

The prime minister hoped to enshrine a set date to leave the EU at 11pm on 29 March 2019.

The parliamentary debate came amid ministerial resignations, warfare between the factions of the Tory party—and a looming coup which threatens to finish May off.

Some Tories tried to downplay the crisis. MP John Redwood declared, “The Conservative parliamentary party is united behind its leader.”

Yet up to 40 Tory MPs have said they are willing to sign a letter calling for a vote of no confidence in May. One senior Tory MP told The Independent news website, “Patience is wearing very thin—and in some cases it has snapped.”

An unnamed minister even suggested that it may be better for the Tories to lose an election rather than continue with May.

They said that the Tories are “getting closer and closer to the point whereby we need some time in Opposition to regroup”.

If eight more sign it would trigger a vote which could see May fall as prime minister.


With no obvious replacement to May, the Tories had briefly united behind May in the hope of getting Brexit negotiations out of the way. But as negotiations are mired in deadlock, the knives are out for her once again.

Europe’s rulers demanded a two-week deadline on the terms of the hefty “divorce settlement” last week.

The EU Withdrawal Bill can only further split the Tories, and they are already divided over Brexit. 

On Monday Brexit secretary David Davis promised to introduce legislation to parliament that will allow MPs to vote on the final Brexit deal. But the concession was not enough to kill off a potential rebellion from Conservative backbenchers.

The Tory splits cause May huge problems. But the division between a “soft” and “hard” Brexit is a false choice. Both sides aim to protect big business and pander to racist scapegoating of migrants.

May’s position in the cabinet has been severely weakened.

Her closest ally and deputy, first secretary of state Damian Green, is currently the subject of a cabinet investigation.

And another sexual harassment allegation has emerged. 

Daisy Goodwin, a writer and TV producer, has said she was groped by an official in David Cameron’s government while visiting 10 Downing Street.

Meanwhile chancellor Philip Hammond, is facing pressure ahead of the budget. He will not make any fundamental shift away from austerity, increasing the anger at Tory rule.

And it has already emerged that he was willing to knife her after the disastrous general election result.

Not wishing to be outdone by his father Stanley’s appearance on I’m a Celebrity—Get Me Out of Here, Boris Johnson joined the fray.

The foreign secretary has begun a dangerous elimination challenge in the cabinet.

Johnson and environment secretary Michael Gove sent a letter to May demanding a swift Brexit.

This was an attack on Hammond, who wants a transition period from the EU’s neoliberal single market.

Labour and the unions must be bolder. We can exploit these divisions and call protests and strikes to drive out this band of sexist, racist robbers.

Join the People’s Assembly #SackTheTories protests on Tuesday 21 November, the eve of the budget, across England. Go to

Will Labour argue for a workers’ Brexit?

Labour planned to put forward a series of amendments to the European Union (EU) Withdrawal Bill defending the single market.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer was set to open the debate calling for a “transition period” for staying in the neoliberal single market.

The Labour amendments don’t defend freedom of movement or the rights of EU migrants.

The Labour leadership are trying to box clever as the prospect of taking office becomes real.

They hope to win support from business—in the vain hope of seeing less resistance to their policies.

This was spelt out in Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the CBI bosses’ conference earlier this month.

There, he promised that Labour would protect their interests in the face of Tory Brexit.

And it echoes former Labour leader John Smith’s “prawn cocktail offensive” to reassure big business—but with a Remain garnish.

But pandering to the bosses would be a disaster for the left and would undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s radical appeal.

The real division is not between Leave and Remain voters.

It’s between those who want to attack workers and migrants’ rights and those who want to defend them.

This is shown by the pro-Remain Starmer’s lack of support for freedom of movement.

The Tories are in trouble over Brexit.

Labour should grab the opportunity to put forward a socialist, anti-racist vision for Brexit—and not let the EU’s liberal defenders form a united opposition around a pro-business agenda.

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