May 23, 2019

The end is near for Theresa May

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May appears, finally, to have reached the end of the road. A plan to resuscitate her Brexit deal was abandoned on Thursday. The London Times reports that she'll "announce a timetable for her departure tomorrow morning."

The bottom line: May came into office three years ago with a singular mission — to deliver Brexit. Anyone would have struggled to do so. She, quite clearly, failed.

  • May labored desperately to stitch together a party that nonetheless continued to fray. British politics are more polarized and gridlocked than at any time in recent memory.

Flashback: May replaced David Cameron in July 2016 after six years as Home Secretary and two decades in Parliament. She positioned herself as the “strong and stable” choice and triumphed after Boris Johnson unexpectedly pulled out of the race.

Timeline:

  • March 28, 2017: May invokes “Article 50,” giving the U.K. two years to finalize its withdrawal from the EU.
  • June 8, 2017: May’s decision to call a snap election to bolster the Conservative majority ahead of Brexit negotiations backfires spectacularly. She’s left with a minority government.
  • July 7, 2018: May puts forward a modified Brexit plan that includes the infamous “Irish backstop.” Hardline Brexiteers, including Johnson, revolt.
  • Nov. 13, 2018: May finalizes her withdrawal agreement with the EU.
  • Jan. 15, 2019: May’s deal fails in Parliament by the largest margin in modern history.

Since then, May has seen off attempts to oust her by the opposition and her own party, had her plan defeated by another massive margin, and been forced to delay the Brexit deadline twice — most recently to Oct. 31.

What’s next: Assuming May goes, Johnson is favored to replace her. That worries leaders across Europe, but might delight President Trump. He's set to visit the U.K. early next month.

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