Editorial: 'May's time runs short - and no-deal Brexit still looms'
IT has dropped off the news agenda for the last three weeks. But it has not gone away - in fact, it has gone nowhere at all. Yes, Brexit remains very much with us. And as the time ticks inexorably down to the new deadline of October 31, the stalemate in the United Kingdom has worsened.
Theresa May is under increasing pressure inside her own Conservative Party to resign. The embattled and ill-starred prime minister, rated by many as the worst-performing holder of that office in many decades, has already said she will not lead her party into the next general election, due in summer 2022 at the latest.
Mrs May followed that declaration with the pledge that she will in fact leave once she gets the EU-UK Brexit draft deal, which she brokered on November 25 last, ratified by the Westminster parliament. She has lost three times by significant margins in her efforts to do that.
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On Thursday, she will meet the 1922 Committee and will face demands that she fixes a firm departure date. If she fails to name her departure date, there is every chance that this committee will change its own rules which prevent re-running a no-confidence motion for 12 months.
This would remove the 12-month grace period Mrs May thought she had won on December 12 when she defeated a first no-confidence motion. Her already precarious position was worsened at the weekend with grim opinion poll findings.
A survey for one Sunday newspaper found that 34pc of people intend to vote for Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, with Labour on 21pc, and the Liberal Democrats on 12pc.
The real rub is that the Conservatives are trailing in fourth place on 11pc. A second survey put the Brexit Party on 27pc, with Labour on 25pc, the Lib Dems on 14pc and the Conservatives again propping up the table on 13pc.
This showing comes ahead of polling in the European Parliament elections across the UK in just 10 days' time, on Thursday week, May 23. Ireland's Euro elections will happen a day later.
Mrs May's Conservatives lost a total of 1,269 seats in local council elections on May 2. The Conservative activists are reeling and feel the only hope of stemming certain losses in the European Parliament contest is for Mrs May to signal an early resignation.
Meanwhile, a rather cock-a-hoop Mr Farage has pumped up demands that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. That would harm Britain and other close trading partners like the Netherlands, France and Germany.
But it would be an economic nightmare for Ireland, north and south, with the threat of some nasty political fallout over the Border. So, the spectre of a no-deal Brexit continues to bedevil us - we have just been hearing less about it for a time.
Happily, while Mr Farage may well end up registering a strong presence in the new European Parliament due to meet on July 2 for the first time, he will not yet be calling the shots in the UK government. Against that, the man has made a career out of influencing UK politics from the outside.