If Theresa May quits as Conservative leader, her replacement could well be an MP like Boris Johnson, who could then bring about a no-deal Brexit by doing nothing.
According to the hard-Brexit-supporting Tory MP Peter Bone, “dedicated and loyal” Conservatives want Theresa May to resign before the European Parliament elections.
Whether this is true or not, the calls for the Prime Minister to quit have been growing louder and will only get more so after the party’s expected drubbing at the polls on Thursday next week. And that should be a concern for all those who fear the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.
If May does resign, Conservative MPs would whittle down the field of potential replacements to two and then ask party members to vote. It is likely that an MP willing to countenance a no-deal Brexit, such as Boris Johnson, would make the final two and he would almost certainly win.
At that point, with the Commons gridlocked, all Prime Minister Johnson would need to do to bring about a no-deal Brexit is, well, nothing. He could simply wait until the 31 October deadline arrives, at which point the UK would leave the EU without a deal, according to current UK legislation. The only thing that would stop this from happening is a successful vote of no confidence in the Government in the Commons, which would trigger a general election. And that would probably require a number of Conservative MPs to embrace career suicide by voting with the opposition, a big step for any politician.
The prospect of being replaced by a no-dealer could well be part of May’s strategy as she attempts once again to persuade MPs to back her EU withdrawal bill in June.
However, Remainers on the opposition benches may decide that the majority of MPs would bring down any Government which countenanced such a reckless course of action and vote against May’s deal, hoping to force an election. Such calculations are the stuff of politics, but rarely have the stakes been quite so high.
Last month, press regulator Ipso ordered the Daily Telegraph to print a correction after Johnson wrongly claimed in his column that a no-deal Brexit was the “future that is by some margin preferred by the British public”. The Telegraph tried to say the article was “clearly comically polemical” and would not have been read as “serious” analysis.
This isn’t a joke. This is very serious. And there is only one sure way to find out what future the British public wants – and that’s a second referendum.