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Trouble toes Theresa

Trouble toes Theresa

British Prime Minister Theresa May's day of reckoning has been beckoning ever since she took charge. Indeed, it was the narrowest of wins for the 'exiters' at the referendum that had her enter 10, Downing Street. Now, she faces a moment of truth over Brexit. After months of debating the details of the legislation that will trigger UK's withdrawal from the European Union, the House of Commons will now stage the crucial votes that will decide her fate. Until just a few days ago, it appeared that the Members of Parliament would overturn key parts of May's Brexit plans and, in turn, wield the power to bring down her government. Yet, now, with the countdown on before the Parliamentary showdown, the Prime Minister looks as though she has but brought her administration back from the brink. A year ago, it seemed like May did not have a long time left in office. She had almost lost a general election she never needed to call, squandering her Conservative Party's overall majority and forcing her to rely on the support of the smaller Democratic Unionist Party. Within days of this electoral calamity, May was heavily criticised for her response to a genuine disaster, the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower that claimed 71 lives. In the months that followed, May struggled to assert her authority over her party and the government, with a string of ministers resigning from the Cabinet and disunity over Brexit lingering among those who remained around her top table. Pressure intensified when, in a series of votes in the House of Lords last month, peers changed key aspects of May's Brexit plans, even voting to keep Britain in the single market and customs union. It is these 15 changes that MPs will vote on this week, either keeping the Lords amendments, which would endanger May's government or overturning them in favour of the Prime Minister. Yet, over the course of a few days, the Prime Minister has, apparently, turned things around. Davis has suggested he will resign, several times, since entering the job two years ago and, each time he failed to do so only strengthened May's position. She agreed to the demands from Davis and fellow Brexiteers to put a time limit on the backstop customs proposal, yet, left the door open to it being extended. Crucially, over the weekend, two senior MPs and former ministers from either side of the Brexit divide in the Conservative Party joined forces to urge their fellow MPs to back the government in the Commons. Amber Rudd, the ex-Home Secretary and a leading supporter of Britain remaining in the EU and Iain Duncan Smith, a prominent campaigner for Leave, co-wrote an article urging unity among the Conservatives. There are suggestions that some of the Tory MPs who had been poised to rebel have changed their minds, for fear of letting the opposition Labour Party and leader Jeremy Corbyn seize power. For Labour's part, in fact, the leadership's plans in this week's votes weaken the chances of the government's defeat, because their MPs are being urged to back different amendments to the Brexit legislation, rather than support the changes made in the House of Lords. It also seems that May will survive as Prime Minister, for the present, at least. She will address her MPs urging them to "send a message to the country" that the Conservative Party is united on Britain's withdrawal from the EU. A year after that election, the simple fact that she has clung on to power despite all the challenges, has made her stronger. Yet, how long will this unity last? While there are not too many apprehensions for the British Prime Minister, what is likely to stiffen is the resolve of the die-hard Remain supporters, including some Conservative MPs, who want the Brexit plans to be put on another referendum. The issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland has not been solved. And, while May has managed to assert some authority inside her government and party, she remains weak in Brussels. The negotiation process demands that Britain make significant progress on the key issues of Brexit before an EU summit at the end of this month, including on the contentious issue of a customs union, to which Brexiteers remain steadfastly opposed. There are also more votes to come in the Commons later this month, on a separate Brexit legislation, that could see disgruntled Conservative MPs stage a rebellion. The Prime Minister seems to have averted disaster for her government this week, but maybe only this week.

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