UK's May faces Brexit balancing act to replace scandal-hit minister
LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to appoint a new aid minister on Thursday following a resignation that has left her struggling to stave off open conflict in a cabinet divided over Brexit.
May is grappling with crises on several fronts. Her team is struggling to make headway in exit talks with the European Union, several ministers are embroiled in a wider sexual harassment scandal and her ability to command a majority in parliament is facing its most serious test.
On Wednesday, cabinet minister and prominent Brexit supporter Priti Patel resigned over undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials.
That has forced May into her second cabinet reshuffle in a week after former defense minister Michael Fallon resigned in a sexual harassment scandal that has also led to investigations into the conduct of two other ministers including May’s deputy.
The instability in her top team adds to what is already a difficult situation for May.
An ill-judged snap election in June cost her party its majority in parliament and has sapped her authority at a time when she is trying to heal deep divi- sions within her own party and negotiate Britain’s departure from the EU.
The European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator doused hopes that those negotiations were nearing a breakthrough, saying “major issues” must still be resolved on safeguarding citizens’ rights.
A fresh round of negotiations between Britain and the European Commission began on Thursday.
Progress in Brussels is vital to help May keep onside nervous businesses who say they urgently need to know what will happen when Britain leaves the bloc; otherwise they will be forced to start triggering contingency plans.
On Wednesday EU envoys discussed delaying the launch of talks with London on a post-Brexit relationship to next year.
Sixteen months after Britain narrowly voted to leave the EU in a referendum, opinions are still split over Brexit at every level from voter to minister.
Although May and her cabinet are united in their intention to take Britain out of the EU, her ministerial team is seen as a delicate balancing act between lawmakers who are still identified as ‘ remainers’ or ‘ leavers’ according to how they voted in the referendum.