Things will look very different for the UK if Theresa May's withdrawal agreement from the EU passes. Not only will we be leaving the EU on May 22, we'll be choosing a new leader as well.
Theresa May is trying to foster support for her twice-defeated deal by promising to step down as PM if it gets through. In keeping with the current political climate, no-one is entirely sure what is going to happen.
And, if the past few years of Brexit haven’t been divisive enough, most candidates are hardly vanilla characters either. So, what exactly is going on? And do we have a say?
How likely will we have a new leader on May 22?
It all depends on whether May’s deal passes.
The Speaker, John Bercow, previously said he won’t let May bring back a vote for a third time. But the PM is set to find a way around his procedural ruling.
If the vote goes ahead, the DUP, who May relies upon to pass motions, are still refusing to back her.
But, surprisingly, staunch defenders of a harder Brexit, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, are more likely to vote in favour of it than ever. They fear delaying or thwarting Brexit completely if not.
MPs voted last night on what they want from Brexit. There was no alternative that got a majority. Yet, remaining in the customs union and having a second referendum, both lost by less than May’s deal ever has.
If we have learnt anything from the past few months, it is that things in Westminster are never static. Nor predictable. So keep your eyes peeled – the government are hoping for another vote on Friday (March 28).
Who is likely to replace her?
Tim Shipman, political editor of The Times, joked a Tory hopeful better change their name to “Don’t Know”. It is the most popular answer currently to who should be PM.
As it currently stands (March 28), Michael Gove is the bookies’ favourite. The environment secretary was a leading figure in the campaign to leave the EU and a big supporter of May’s deal. Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damian Albarn once called Gove a “xenophobe” when he bumped into him on the street.
Sajid Javid is another main contender. He once backed Remain but is now an ardent Brexieer, even arguing to keep No-Deal on the table. But the home secretary has been a controversial figure recently over his decision to not let former ISIS bridge Shamima Begum back to the UK. Anger escalated when her newborn baby died in a refugee camp shortly after this ruling.
Another Remainer-turned-Brexiteer, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt is also in the race. He is the longest-serving health secretary to date, during which he oversaw the unpopular junior doctors’ contracts.
Boris Johnson has long been pitted for new Conservative leader, although his recent U-turn to back May’s deal sees him less as a competitor and more of an ally. A recent poll by Ipsos Mori showed him to be the most divisive candidate: 24% of Brits said they believed he would be a good PM and 64% said he would be a bad one. In both cases, this was the biggest percentage any Tory candidate received.
Former Brexit secretary and critic of May, Dominic Raab, might be in the race and a “Ready for Raab” campaign is spreading on social media. Health secretary Matt Hancock has been lauded for his campaign against social media giants on mental health and might be seen as a middle-ground for the warring party.
And that is not all. Expect to hear Amber Rudd, David Davids, Liz Truss and Andrea Leadsom’s name thrown around by their supporters.
Out of our hands?
Not exactly. The way the Conservative Party elects its leader is in two stages. First, Tory MPs choose two candidates. Then, party members vote for which one they prefer.
Tory MP Antoinette Sandbach recently called on Remainers to join the Conservative Party to have a say over who the UK’s leadership. The Catch-22 for Remainers is May now says she will step down once Brexit is confirmed.
But May has only put forward a deal for the transition period: there is a whole other future relationship to agree upon. And the future PM will be in charge of that.
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