Brexit delay wins May more time, but how much more?

Theresa May
Theresa May. / AFP / Philippe HUGUEN

BRUSSELS — In delaying Brexit again, British Prime Minister Theresa May has put off her own promised departure date — but the move risks reviving efforts by her furious colleagues to unseat her.

May said last month she would step down once her EU divorce agreement was passed by the British parliament, an offer she hoped would persuade her Conservative critics to back the plan.

It failed and, faced with the prospect of a “no deal” exit on Friday, she has now agreed to delay Brexit, potentially until October 31.

Downing Street says she stands by her commitment to see through this stage of Britain’s exit, and some colleagues say she is going nowhere.

“I don’t think we should be rushing to change our leader when there is a big task to be done,” Justice Secretary David Gauke told the BBC ahead of the summit.

May herself told a Brussels press conference that she “sincerely regrets” the delay but “we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach a consensus on a deal”.

But many of May’s Conservative MPs are livid that Britain is now likely to take part in European Parliament elections next month — something she previously said would be unacceptable.

Brexit-supporting MP Peter Bone earlier noted May said she would not accept staying in the EU beyond June 30.

“If the prime minister intends to keep her word, can we expect her resignation later tonight?” he tweeted.

May’s move to reach a compromise with the opposition Labour Party to find votes to replace those she has lost on her own side has also provoked accusations of “surrender”.

And, Brexit anger aside, a growing number of Conservatives — including ministers — are already making moves for the anticipated vacancy in the top job.

Party challenge

May has faced constant challenges since taking office following the historic 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU, presiding over a divided party and since 2017, without a majority in parliament.

More than 30 ministers have quit since the 2017 election, with some — notably Boris Johnson — becoming the strongest critics of her European strategy.