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Britain's Brexit crisis is now critical for Theresa May

That's right, Britain's governing Conservative Party is having another leadership crisis. It must be because it's Mon...

Posted: Jan 29, 2018 8:50 PM
Updated: Jan 29, 2018 8:50 PM

That's right, Britain's governing Conservative Party is having another leadership crisis. It must be because it's Monday.

Just over a year ago, when British Prime Minister Theresa May gave her uncompromising Brexit speech at London's Lancaster House, the hardline Brexiteers were sure they had won.

It's worth remembering how uncompromising it was. Britain's best-selling Sun newspaper dwelt on her threat to withdraw security cooperation with the EU, if Brussels didn't give Britain a favorable exit deal. "PM's Brexit Threat to EU: Your Money or Your Lives," screamed the headline.

But then she called the election to win a mandate to take back control of "our laws, our borders and our money" -- and lost.

Instead of basking in triumph at Downing Street, she now clings to power because her party, like her country, is split down the middle. Her own Chancellor (finance minister) and Home Secretary, to say nothing of the civil service, wholly oppose her policy, but are too weak to change it either.

Too weak -- but not silent. Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, told an audience of ultramontane globalists at Davos that he hoped to make only "modest changes" to Britain's relationship with the EU.

But this has given Brexiteers the right to ask what's the point of going to all the trouble of leaving the EU, only to end up with "modest changes"?

Whatever happened to what is, after all, UK government policy of taking back control of borders, laws and money? What if it wasn't just her belligerent language on security that had been replaced by a far wiser unconditional guarantee to come to Europe's military aid? What if her whole Brexit policy was coming unstuck? The Brexiteers had to make their presence felt before it was too late.

If the Chancellor's intervention provided the pretext, the EU's own negotiation guidelines provide the real reason: Brexit will take time to implement, and this has given rise to the notion of a "transition period." The term's a misnomer. Everyone has always known that far from a smooth gradation towards Brexit, it is just a delay of most of its effects.

The EU is prepared to grant Britain a so-called transition -- but on the condition that EU law continues to apply to the UK while it goes on and Britain does not get a vote in European institutions. Brexiteers have finally decided that this, which had been acceptable to them this summer, is now a concession too far.

It would, said anti-European leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man whose effete demeanor disguises fanaticism of Cromwellian intensity, render Britain a "vassal state."

The hardliners are afraid their country would end up in a gilded cage. By keeping disruption to a minimum, it would prove far too convenient to extend such a status indefinitely (they overlook that the EU itself has said it can't go beyond 2020). This Eunuch Brexit, which was supposed to make Britons tough and free, would have achieved the exact opposite.

Hammond's unguarded remarks gave the hardliners an excuse to launch their latest rising.

The instrument this time was Graham Brady, the MP who chairs the Conservative backbench group the 1922 committee and must trigger a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister if he receives 48 letters from Tory MPs saying they would like one.

Pretending he was concerned for her safety -- but obviously communicating the reverse -- he let it be known that the number was awfully close to the threshold. Nice leadership you've got there, shame if anything would happen to it. Can I interest you in some Brexit insurance, Madam?

Still, this Brexit mob has been living off the reputation it gained in the 1990s, when it subjected then Prime Minister John Major's government to legislative guerrilla warfare.

The current crop are, by comparison, soft. They plead loyalty to the Prime Minister. They have accepted concessions on everything from Northern Ireland to budget contributions and even the role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing elements of British law that they had previously insisted were unthinkable.

The rules to replace a Conservative leader -- who at the moment is also the Prime Minister -- eventually work in the hardliners' favor. The final decision is made by party members, who will vote for the most pro-Brexit of candidates.

But before that they have to win the vote of no confidence in the incumbent. There's every risk that they would lose it, and be left with their worst nightmare -- a weak prime minister hostage not to them, but to the MPs who voted remain and favor a softer Brexit.

The hardliners need her to resign before the confidence vote can take place, and for that they need some of her cabinet ministers to walk out. The ministers will have to do so under the shadow of the ancient rule of leadership contests: He who wields the dagger never wears the crown.

If they are to remove May, at least two cabinet ministers will have to sacrifice their ambitions to replace her. Unless they discover such courage, May will keep going, as though she herself were one of Margaret Thatcher's policy programs: Because there is no alternative.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 608519

Reported Deaths: 9693
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion840461335
Lake45349684
Allen32803548
Hamilton29394315
St. Joseph27380381
Elkhart24404345
Vanderburgh19411249
Tippecanoe17970138
Johnson15069295
Porter14783169
Hendricks14401248
Madison10965221
Vigo10726181
Clark10677144
Monroe9383110
Delaware9116134
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Kosciusko806983
Warrick672999
Hancock6697104
Bartholomew6484100
Floyd6428110
Wayne6136162
Grant5991115
Dubois555579
Boone551168
Morgan541295
Henry507864
Marshall503984
Cass483263
Dearborn479845
Noble473059
Jackson425047
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Lawrence391079
Clinton373043
Gibson370359
Harrison348144
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Montgomery345754
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Miami321444
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Clay222532
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Starke175443
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Warren6817
Switzerland6615
Union6287
Ohio4907
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 859841

Reported Deaths: 10680
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin101171707
Cuyahoga855711125
Hamilton64017448
Montgomery43107418
Summit34836761
Lucas31350625
Butler30973232
Stark25786435
Warren19671140
Lorain19017223
Mahoning17321338
Lake16080154
Clermont15926111
Delaware1438878
Licking13204137
Trumbull12809316
Fairfield1279381
Greene12055137
Medina11591168
Clark10942265
Wood10348158
Allen9897126
Portage9296109
Miami916873
Richland9139118
Marion7459113
Tuscarawas7381182
Columbiana7327124
Pickaway726150
Wayne7034171
Muskingum703141
Erie6152129
Hancock552390
Ross548998
Scioto539164
Geauga508455
Darke470292
Ashtabula453073
Lawrence452654
Union451828
Sandusky436662
Mercer433589
Seneca430166
Huron428741
Auglaize422264
Shelby421222
Jefferson419269
Belmont416840
Washington388740
Athens38009
Putnam374975
Madison355129
Knox352622
Ashland344938
Fulton338443
Defiance330086
Crawford322374
Preble320637
Brown312921
Logan307332
Ottawa293943
Clinton290143
Williams278667
Highland275118
Jackson263845
Guernsey254125
Champaign252028
Fayette236530
Morrow23234
Perry231318
Holmes225474
Henry218749
Hardin213033
Coshocton205622
Van Wert202245
Gallia196726
Wyandot196051
Pike176217
Adams176115
Hocking172024
Carroll155616
Paulding144321
Noble120540
Meigs108624
Monroe100732
Harrison89121
Morgan83130
Vinton70213
Unassigned00
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