Leader comment: A week is a long time in politics for May

PM heads to crucial EU summit more secure but no closer to uniting a divided party or country

Reports of Prime Minister Theresa May’s political demise may have been greatly exaggerated.

Little more than a week ago, right-wing rebel Tory MPs were confidently predicting that they’d soon have the numbers required to force a confidence vote. The likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson scented blood.

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In the end, the hard Brexiteers on the Conservative benches at Westminster could not - or, at least, have not yet - mustered the numbers they require to begin the process of trying to remove the Prime Minister from office.

Prime Minister Theresa May will have to look hard for allies in the coming months. Picture: Getty

As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and so Mrs May heads to yet another EU summit tomorrow more secure in her position than she has been for some time.

The Scotsman continues to believe the UK’s departure from the EU is a mistake that will damage the economy and lessen the nation’s standing on the international stage but, in the absence of a second referendum, this is a process which will grind to its grim conclusion in March next year.

This being so, it is our belief that Mrs May has a duty to do whatever she can to ameliorate the most damaging impact of Brexit. As she meets fellow leaders, we hope she will think first of this responsibility rather than of how she might placate the more excitable members on the Conservative backbenches.

Those at Westminster who advocated most enthusiastically for Brexit have, in the two years since the EU referendum, repeatedly failed to explain how the painless break with Europe that they promised might be achieved.

Their reassurances that the UK could dictate terms and that the EU would gladly comply have long since been exposed as fantasy.

This reality, we have no doubt, will not prevent the continuation in the days and weeks ahead of nonsensical claims that they could have negotiated a stronger deal than the one Mrs May has secured.

The EU has always had the upper hand in these negotiations and no amount of bluster from Brexiteers could have changed that.

The legacy of the 2016 vote is a divided country. A deal – the 
only deal on the table – that will satisfy neither Leavers nor Remainers will do nothing to repair that schism.

This, we take no pleasure in concluding, was always going to be the case.