Is it up to the EU to keep Theresa May as Prime Minister?
By Joe Harker
Prime Minister Theresa May is in a particularly precarious position. Her majority in the House of Commons is dependent on a confidence and supply deal with the DUP and many of her own MPs plan to oppose her Brexit plans. If her Chequers deal fails it could bring an end to her time as Prime Minister and it looks on course to fail with little support from the public or the EU.
However, the Prime Minister may have been handed a lifeline by the EU, who are considering changing their stance on Brexit negotiations in a move the Daily Telegraph has called "Operation Save Theresa". EU leaders are holding an informal summit later in the month where they might decide to issue new instructions to chief negotiator Michel Barnier and finally resolve talks between the UK and EU.
The longer it takes to agree a deal on Brexit, the bigger chance that Tory MPs who do not back the Prime Minister try to block her in the House of Commons and split the party, potentially removing her from power. The EU would rather deal with May and thus have some interest in keeping her in power.
The Financial Times (£) reports that May is hoping the EU will ride to her rescue and help move her Chequers deal through to fend off the mounting criticism from her own MPs. However, it also stresses that many EU officials feel the Prime Minister's plan is unworkable and she is refusing to budge from it.
If all goes smoothly then a deal could be reached within six to eight weeks. Both the EU and UK agree that negotiations must be successfully concluded before the end of November to avoid a no deal Brexit.
Although 'Operation Save Theresa' might succeed in moving the Brexit negotiations along it could also attract the ire of Tory Brexiteers who do not support the Prime Minister's Chequers deal. If they believe their window of opportunity to move against May is closing then they might decide to do something drastic such as instigate a vote of no confidence.
Supporters of a People's Vote would also have to move quickly to get what they want. If the Prime Minister can get Brexit sorted then the chances of another referendum drop sharply.
However, rushing through Brexit with the help of the EU could be hugely unpopular among the public, who look less favourably on the Chequers deal than they did the Poll Tax. Theresa May's type of Brexit is not one embraced by the British public, while opinion is also shifting towards a second referendum.
Even if Brexit negotiations speed up and progress is made over the next few weeks, expect opponents of the Prime Minister and leaving the EU to ramp up their campaigns. The clock is ticking for everyone.