- Reuters/Toby Melville
- European Union figures are reportedly preparing for Theresa May’s government to collapse this year. Brussels is worried about the chaos that would be caused by a change in leadership or another election. Priti Patel resigned Wednesday night for holding unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians. The Cabinet has lost two ministers in a week.
LONDON – The European Union is reportedly preparing for Theresa May’s government to collapse before the New Year after the prime minister on Wednesday night lost a Cabinet minister for the second time in a week.
There is growing concern in Brussels that the increasing instability of the Conservative minority government could soon trigger a change in leadership or a general election leading to a Labour government, according to The Times.
Brexit talks between British and EU negotiators resume Thursday with the UK government in a state of disarray.
Michael Fallon resigned as defence secretary last week after being named in a sexual-misconduct scandal that has engulfed Westminster, while Wednesday night Priti Patel left her role as international development secretary after it emerged that she had held unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians.
May is also under pressure to sack Boris Johnson. The foreign secretary’s mistaken claim that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran to teach journalism when she was arrested in Tehran last year is being used against the imprisoned Brit as evidence as she faces another five years being added to her sentence.
“There is the great difficulty of the leadership in Great Britain, which is more and more fragile,” one European leader told The Times. “Britain is very weak and the weakness of Theresa May makes negotiations very difficult.”
EU figures are believed to be considering a range of options as May struggles to keep her government under control, including a chaotic “no deal” Brexit and reversal of last year’s referendum.
The European leader quoted by The Times appeared to leave the door open to Brexit being reversed, reportedly remarking, “The referendum decision was very close.”
Attention Thursday will turn to Brussels, where May will hope British negotiators can make a breakthrough with their European counterparts.
The UK government is determined to kick-start talks on future trade relations before the New Year. But the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has warned that work is to be done before “sufficient progress” is made on the issues of citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and Britain’s financial obligations.
The EU Parliament’s chief Brexit spokesman, Guy Verhofstadt, on Wednesday said it was “erroneous” to claim a deal on citizens’ right was close. The European Parliament will have the power to veto any final Brexit deal.