June is the end of May



It’s the end of May. In every sense. This morning, Theresa May confirmed she will resign as Prime Minister on the 7th June. You can watch her speech here. The process of electing a new leader will being the following week.

While Theresa May’s prime ministership has long been up in the air, the tipping point came when May unveiled a 10-point plan on Tuesday afternoon. It the ‘one last chance’ to save her Brexit deal. But it pleased no one. The promise to give MPs a vote on whether to hold another referendum outraged pro-Brexit MPs. It simultaneously failed to please Labour MPs when May attached the condition of needing to back her deal first.  She also tried to appease pro-Brexiteers with the promise to seek alternative arrangements to replace the backstop. We are about five months away from leaving the EU. What happens between now and then is anyone's guess but guaranteed it will be a rocky road.

Nuts and Bolts of a Conservative Leadership Election
The resignation of Theresa May as the Conservative party leader triggers a contest for a new leader. 

A Conservative leadership election happens in two stages.

First stage - MP shortlisting

  • Conservative MPs are the only participants of this stage

  • Conservative MPs put themselves forward and need two fellow Conservative MPs to support them

  • The MPs then vote in a series of rounds. At the end of each round the MP with the lowest number of votes is eliminated.

  • This is repeated until two candidates remain

Second Stage - Membership voting

  • The two candidates are presented to the members

  • Run on a ‘One Member One Vote’ system

  • The timeline for the ballot is set out by the 1922 Committee

  • The winner of this ballot becomes the Conservative leader

The Time Red Box Podcast have an interesting conversation on the upcoming leadership election here

Conservative Party Runners and Riders
With Theresa May on her way out shortly, many Conservative MPs have put themselves forward to replace her. Her replacement could drastically change the direction of Brexit. 

The current frontrunner is Boris Johnson. A man many of his fellow Conservative MPs have publicly stated they would really not want to be leader. A key figure of the Leave campaign in the referendum and a Brexiteer who resigned as Foreign Secretary in response to May’s deal. He has made sounds of pushing towards a No Deal Brexit. In last weeks Times/YouGov polling (herepaywalled) he was the runaway favourite among Conservative members ranked 1st by 39%. Currently backed by Gavin Williamson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Johnny Mercer.

Next is Dominic Raab. A committed Brexiteer and backs a No Deal Brexit. Previously Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union. He also resigned as he didn’t like May’s deal. Seen by moderate Conservatives as more dangerous than Johnson. They believe Johnson could be persuaded not to do No Deal, whereas they see Raab as a ‘true believer’ of it. 

Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt are both running. Both current high ranking Cabinet ministers Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary respectively. Both campaigned for Remain and now both have since changed to support Leave. Javid has been making speeches, and policy announcements to court the socially conservative wing of the party. Meanwhile Hunt has been using his position to portray himself as the grown-up Statesman in the room. Pundits predict Hunt currently has a decent chance of getting to the 2nd round of voting.

Potential moderniser Matt Hancock the Health Secretary has neither ruled himself out nor put himself forward yet but is expected to run. He is seen as an ambitious, effective minister on the liberal side of the party. A Remain Conservative who has supported May’s deal and voted for it. 

A few to watch as the contest continues are Penny Mordant, Defence Secretary, and Andrea Leadsom who recently resigned as the Leader of the House. Mordant is a committed Brexiteer but is a social liberal. Mordaunt might have the potential to be a unity candidate, however the polarisation may mean picking a side alienates the other. Leadsom meanwhile, is a committed Brexiteer who has been loyal to May. She has also been seen to do a competent job in her role as Leader of the House of Commons. She has pushed restoration and against bullying and harassment of staff. Leadsom has gained support from across the Commons for this work. Both have potential in a leadership contest, and both are committed Brexiteers.

Two figures who will not be running but are potential kingmakers are Amber Rudd and Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP. Rudd is popular among One Nation, Moderniser MPs and is seen to have been an effective and loyal minister. Many of her colleagues will see who she supports, and is likely to bring them with her. The new leader must remember they still do not have a majority in Parliament and the Conservatives will still rely on a confidence-and-supply agreement. Foster will therefore be key. She has consistently spoken of her dislike of May’s deal and the Irish Backstop and without her support there will be no Government majority. Who she signals as having her support may then tilt Conservative MPs opinions. IT will be worth listening out for what both of these figures have to say in the contest.

Can Parliament block No Deal?  

With Theresa May on her way out of office, and therefore a new leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister to be elected once she leaves, it is worth considering that a No Deal Brexit may be on the table once again. There are several candidates to succeed May who would potentially pursue a No Deal Brexit. The big question whether parliament can, in fact, stop a No Deal Brexit from happening? block a ‘No Deal’ Brexit?

No. Parliament cannot block a No Deal Brexit if the Prime Minister wishes to pursue one. 

Due to no deal being the legal default all a Prime Minister would have to do is to not request an extension of Article 50 and not try and get a deal with the EU either. The UK would then leave the EU on a No Deal Brexit. Furthermore, it’s difficult to see a ‘Cooper Bill’ style take over from earlier this year- that relied amending parliamentary procedures related to the  Meaningful Vote. If the new PM is set on leaving the EU without a deal, there is no need to seek parliamentary approval of the Withdrawal Agreement and so therefore no immediate opportunity for MP’s to take control of the process. 

While the legislative and procedural routes to stop a no deal at this stage remain non-existent, political pressure to stop No Deal both within Parliament and outside does matter. 

The Institute for Government delve deeper into the various possible scenarios here 

With the resignation of Theresa May as Conservative Party leader there is now going to be a new leader, and a new Prime Minister in the coming weeks. Therefore the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is looking dead in the water.. Any deal now waits for the new leader of the Conservative Party and depends on what direction they wish to take.

Birmingham roundtable: Brexit and Civil Society
Next week is our Birmingham roundtable on Brexit and Civil Society. It is your last chance to get a ticket. Get it here now and please share it will anyone you think should go.

In partnership with BVSC- the Centre for Voluntary Action, the Brexit Civil Society Alliance is hosting a roundtable discussion on what Brexit means for the third sector in Birmingham on the 29th May, 14.00-17.00.  

The event will bring civil society and relevant stakeholders together to network and share information and discuss what happens next and how the third sector in Birmingham can best prepare for exit day. It will also be an opportunity to express thoughts and concerns about Brexit's impact on civil society. 

Full details can be found on our website here.

Sheffield roundtable: Brexit & Civil Society - Save the Date!
After Birmingham we will be hosting a roundtable in Sheffield. We will be in Sheffield on Tuesday 25th June, 13:30 to 16:30 at the Workstation, 15 Paternoster Row.

We will bring civil society and relevant stakeholders together to network, share information and discuss what happens next and how the third sector in Sheffield can best prepare for exit day. Get your ticket here now!

Recommended Reading

  • Swee Leng Harris outlines issues for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (if it is published) and Retained EU Law here

  • EU citizens have been denied their vote in the European elections this week. Piece by the Guardian here