Brexit falling apart?

The prime minster's plans face many problems

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What are the obstacles facing Theresa May's Brexit?

By Joe Harker

Prime minister Theresa May is facing a Cabinet rebellion over her Brexit plans, according to The Times. They report that former Brexit secretary David Davis is urging senior ministers to launch a mutiny and stop May's "completely unacceptable" proposals. He believes she is trying to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU and has argued that she is trying to cut Cabinet ministers out of the process, instead relying on aides and civil servants to do the job.

It could also be his bid for Tory party leadership and a shot at becoming Prime Minister. Last week a plan to replace May with Davis on an interim basis was discovered. That plan would first require May to be ousted, which could be closer than people realise. The Times reports that 44 Tory MPs have submitted letters expressing no confidence in the prime minister, meaning that only four more letters need to be submitted to trigger a vote.

If a vote is triggered and she loses there will be a Tory leadership contest where Theresa May cannot stand. If she wins then she will stay on as Prime Minister and another vote cannot be taken for another year.

The prime minister's working majority in the House of Commons is also under threat. Theresa May's government is propped up by the DUP, whose 10 MPs give the Tories more than half the seats in the house. The arrangement is a "confidence and supply" deal, made sweeter with a billion pound gift, meaning that May can count on their support as long as they have confidence in her. However, if her Brexit deal is not to their liking then they could rescind their support and leave the prime minister stuck.

DUP leader Arlene Foster reportedly believes a no deal Brexit is the most likely outcome and has claimed there is a "blood red line" over plans for putting the Irish border in the sea.

However, help for the prime minister may come from an unlikely source. The Independent reports that multiple Labour MPs have contacted them to say they will back the prime minister's Brexit proposals. They do not want to vote against a deal if the alternative is a no deal Brexit and at least 15 MPs could back the Tories in the House of Commons against the wishes of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Hardline Tory MPs believe they have the numbers to stop May, even with support from Labour rebels. Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe, claims that up to 80 Tory MPs are ready to oppose the prime minister's deal and at the very least 40 will still vote against her even after action taken by the party whips. Even if May managed to get the DUP to continue supporting her and the backing of 15 Labour MPs she would not be able to overcome a rebellion of 40 of her own MPs.

The Financial Times reports on three possible outcomes from the current situation. If progress can be made on the Irish border and a number of other issues it could result in a "clean deal", though the prime minister may still struggle to get it through the House of Commons.

If sufficient progress is not made then the second scenario, "serious crisis" kicks in. Several European leaders believe this is the last chance to make progress on the sticking points of Brexit. If there is not a breakthrough now, there won't be. That may lead to more negotiating time being needed as new plans and positions are drawn up, or it could lead to more planning for a no deal Brexit.

Finally, if the UK agrees to sign a withdrawal treaty but cannot agree on the terms of Brexit then the third scenario, "unpredictable muddle", takes over. It would represent progress in the negotiations but bring the UK no closer to leaving the EU.

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