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Contest to replace May as British prime minister hots up

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Contest to replace May as British prime minister hots up

By Michael Holden


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FILE PHOTO: Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gives a speech at the JCB Headquarters in Rocester, Staffordshire, Britain, January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Yates/File Photo


LONDON (Reuters) - The contest to replace Theresa May as British prime minister hotted up on Saturday with five candidates now vying for a job whose central task will be to find a way to take a divided Britain out of the European Union.


May announced on Friday she was quitting over her failure to deliver Brexit, raising the prospect of a new leader who could seek a more divisive split with the EU which could lead to confrontation with the bloc or a possible parliamentary election.


British health minister Matt Hancock became the latest figure to join the contest to replace May, following former foreign minister Boris Johnson, current foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and former work and pensions minister Esther McVey.


About a dozen contenders in total are thought to be considering a tilt at the leadership, with trade minister Liam Fox and former junior Brexit minister Steve Baker not ruling out a challenge when asked on Saturday.


May failed three times to get a divorce deal she agreed with the EU through parliament because of deep, long-term divisions in the Conservative Party over Europe. It meant the original exit date of March 29 has been extended until Oct. 31 to see if any compromise could be reached.


All those standing say they can succeed where she failed, although the EU has said it would not renegotiate the treaty it had agreed with May.


"Of course we have to deliver Brexit and I will," Hancock told BBC radio. "We have to propose a deal that will get through this parliament. We have to be brutally honest about the trade-offs."


The issue is set to dominate the contest which will begin in the week of June 10 when Conservative lawmakers begin to whittle down the field before party members choose the winner from the final two candidates.




Surveys have suggested that the members are overwhelmingly pro-Brexit and in favour of leaving the EU without a deal.

Boris Johnson is the clear favourite with bookmakers and he has said Britain should be prepared to exit the bloc without any deal if no acceptable agreement could be reached.


"We will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal," Johnson told an economic conference in Switzerland on Friday.


The party's divisions over the EU has led to the demise of its last four prime ministers - May, David Cameron, John Major and Margaret Thatcher - and there is little indication these schisms will be healed soon.


"There are huge tensions in this race which are that people will be encouraged to promise things they can't deliver, of those probably the most dramatic are people who are going to be encouraged to promise a no-deal Brexit," one of the contenders, Rory Stewart, told BBC radio.


While parliament repeatedly rejected May's accord, lawmakers have also previously voted against leaving without any deal. Stewart said he could not serve in a Johnson government that was prepared to accept a no-deal Brexit.


"I think it would be a huge mistake, damaging, unnecessary and I think also dishonest," Stewart said.


With no majority in parliament, the Conservatives only govern with the support of the small Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, a factor that has constantly weakened May's hand.


The opposition Labour Party, which called for an immediate election after May's announcement, said it would seek a vote of no confidence in the government if it looked like it might pass, while it has also not ruled out backing a second referendum.


"It looks almost certain we're going to be faced with a Conservative leader who is a hard Brexiteer willing to take the country over the edge of a no-deal no matter what the damage to jobs or people's livelihoods," Labour finance spokesman John McDonnell told BBC radio.


"Faced with that situation, I think there may well be a majority in the House of Commons willing to bring about some form of public vote and that could include a general election."


(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alexander Smith)



-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-05-26



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9 minutes ago, TopDeadSenter said:

People see this as more complicated than I believe it to be. I think there is only one way this will play out. Johnson will win the leadership battle. Any of the dithering soft remainers like Javid/Hunt/McVey/Stewart are toxic. They are cut from the same cloth as May and look what that did to the conservative party. No. Johnson, even though a total prat, has marketed himself as a hard Brexitter, which is what the public voted for 3 years ago.

 Now Farage, as people's favourite and champion of respecting democracy will be able to cut a deal with Johnson(with the condition he doesn't flipflop again) leaving a re-vamped Conservative party/Brexit party coalition with way over 50% of the votes and leave Corbyn/Abbott in the dust. With that said we will shortly be out of the collapsing Euro project on WTO and common sense terms, and on our path to making Britain Great again. This 3 years of May/Corbyn wasting time in the attempt to overturn Brexit has been more damaging than any form of Brexit could have been. Totally inexcusable.

Nigel climbing into bed with Boris, eh? Where does that leave our Arlene?


Two things that will scupper your proposed, unholy... or unholier alliance are:


a ) The Tory leadership will not allow any sort of alliance with the Brexit Party. Bojo, for all his quick wit, instant repartee and engaging buffoonery, knows that any such a 'cunning plan' would be committing political suicide.


b ) The tens of thousands of people that have just sent money to Farage's latest one-trick pony won't allow it either. They are sick to the back teeth of the fallout from the Conservative's perpetual inner battles being foisted on them again.


I reckon our Arlene will have her chanty under Boris's bed for a wee bit longer... or the bed of whoever wins the latest Tory shitfight.

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18 minutes ago, luckyluke said:

52 % may be a majority, but not enough to impose things. 


If you have an opposition of 48 %, you can not simply ignore it, just like that.

Yes Captain Obvious.


But a majority is a majority and losing is losing. It is up to each side to work towards accommodating the other regardless if the divide is 4% or 40%. Unfortunately, the Tories, hamstrung by the loss of majority with that fatally flawed 2018 snap election, have been less inclined to cross the floor and engage in a serious domestic tête-à-tête with the losing side. Instead of presenting a stiff hand to the EU face and the admonishment to Brussels to wait their turn while the UK's domestic issues were agreed, the virtually ex- PM stupidly, prematurely and vaingloriously pulled the Article 50 pin with all the fake "I'm in charge here" bravado she could muster.

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1 hour ago, JAG said:

Nor can you let it overule and overturn the decision of the majority, which is effectively what has been happening for the last two years.

Well you can if you have a new majority.

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