UK Politics: May on the brink as Brexiteers plan Tory leadership challenge?

Brexit secretary
Brexit secretary Dominic Raab appeared to undermine May on Sunday
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With hundreds of thousands of Remainers on the march and Brexiteers plotting against Theresa May, it's been another eventful week in UK politics. Max Liu discusses the latest odds.

"Sajid Javid is the current favourite to be next Tory leader, at [7.6], but Raab's odds are shortening and he's into [13.0]."

Theresa May is trading at [2.0] on the Betfair Exchange to leave Downing Street before Brexit is complete, amid reports that she has 72 hours to save her job. Tory Brexiteers are reportedly prepared to move against the Prime Minister this week, with 46 letters of no confidence - 48 are needed to trigger a vote - apparently signed, sealed and ready to be delivered to the party chairman.

The Brexiteers aren't mincing their words this time, with Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen saying May must attend Wednesday's meeting of the Tory 1922 committee of backbenchers or risk making "the letters go in even faster".

Tory in-fighting over Brexit continues

Rumours of a leadership challenge to May comes on another Sunday when the newspapers are full of contradictory statements from Tory ministers past and present.

Writing in the Mail, David Davis accuses the PM managing to alienate Leavers and Remainers and expresses his anger at the idea of extending the Brexit transition period.

More surprising is that current Brexit secretary Dominic Raab also undermines May. In today's Telegraph, Raab says the transition period can only be extended if the EU abandon its Northern Irish backstop. This will infuriate EU leaders and could scupper any progress the PM managed to make in this week's summit Brussels.

It's a bold move from Raab who was only appointed Brexit secretary by May in July. Is this his way of positioning himself as her potential successor? Sajid Javid is the current favourite to be next Tory leader, at [7.6], but Raab's odds are shortening and he's into [13.0].

Will May survive again?

May has been in a precarious position since the 2017 general election when she lost her majority in Parliament. She could well survive this latest storm. At the same time, there's a growing sense that she's reaching the end of the road with Brexit, as the impossibility of satisfying her MPs and getting a good deal for Britain becomes apparent. The PM will be in unchartered territory if she does face a leadership challenge and she might not survive.

Remainers march in London

Almost 700,000 people turned out to demand a "people's vote" on the final Brexit deal on Saturday, but a referendum before 2020 is trading at [3.45] on the Betfair Exchange this morning - pretty much exactly where it was before the march on Friday.

It was the biggest demonstration London has seen since one million marched against the Iraq War on 15 February 2003. That day, of course, demonstrators were urging the likes of Tony Blair and his foreign secretary Jack Straw not to take part in the US-led invasion of Iraq. In 2018, Blair and his political ilk are on the same side as the demonstrators, as they try to stop Britain crashing out of the European Union without a deal.

Back in 2003, Blair took no notice of the protestors and lead Britain into a catastrophe for which many millions of people are still suffering. Why should those in power be more amenable today? For one thing, holding another referendum would put the decision back in the hands of the people and might - temporarily, at least - relieve some of the pressure on the politicians. A second vote could be the only way of resolving the Brexit nightmare, one way or another.

As reported on the eve of the march, a no deal Brexit is trading at evens on Sportsbook after May emerged from this week's summit in Brussels no closer to reaching agreement with the EU on a number of conundrums, in particular the Irish border issue, which continues to cause so much consternation in Brussels and among May's own MPs.

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