LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May faced renewed pressure Tuesday from her restive Conservative Party to resign as lawmakers returned to Parliament – and to Brexit wrangling – after an 11-day Easter break.
Britain’s European Union exit, long scheduled to take place last month, has been delayed as the government tries to win Parliament’s backing for a divorce deal. The bloc has given Britain until Oct. 31 to ratify an agreement or leave the 28-nation EU without a deal to smooth the way.
Most economists believe that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would plunge Britain into recession as customs checks would likely be installed at U.K. ports and tariffs imposed on trade between the U.K. and the EU.
Talks on striking a compromise Brexit agreement are set to resume between May’s government and the main opposition Labour Party. But several days of talks earlier this month failed to produce a breakthrough, and there are few signs the gap between the two sides is closing.
Anger is growing among pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers and officials over the delay to Brexit and May’s bid for compromise.
Pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker Nigel Evans said calls for May’s departure are “growing into a clamour” and she should resign “as soon as possible.”
“I believe the only way we’re going to break this impasse properly is if we have fresh leadership of the Conservative Party,” Evans told the BBC.
Many Conservative Brexiteers think May should be replaced with a more staunchly pro-Brexit leader, such as the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. But May survived a no-confidence vote among party colleagues in December, and under Conservative rules she can’t face another challenge until a year has passed.
Some Conservative lawmakers are discussing whether the rules could be changed to allow a new vote on May’s leadership.
May has said she will step down once Parliament has approved a Brexit deal. But lawmakers have rejected the agreement she struck with the bloc last year three times.
Justice Minister Rory Stewart, a May loyalist, said changing leader would not solve the fundamental problem: the British public, and its politicians, are deeply divided about whether to leave the EU, and on what terms.
“The problem is not the prime minister, the problem is Brexit,” Stewart said.
“It’s nothing to do with the individual; it is that people disagree deeply over Brexit.”