UK Conservative party meets for annual conference despite divisions over Brexit

UK Conservative party meets for annual conference despite divisions over Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party will meet in Birmingham today for their annual conference amid major internal disputes over

Britain’s Prime Minister May leaves Downing Street for the Houses of Parliament in London

Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party will meet in Birmingham today for their annual conference amid major internal disputes over the Brexit.

PM May’s official “Chequers” plan is in limbo after the EU’s rejection on September 20. In the void, former Foreign Secretary and Chequers critic Boris Johnson has pitched a “Canada Free Trade” version ensuring full independence from the EU. Johnson’s plan is supported by the party’s Hard Brexiteers. However, the official party line from May and her cabinet is that the EU must accept the Chequers plan or there will be no deal whatsoever.

Brexiteers are likely to push an alternative like Johnson’s at this conference. But, Northern Ireland’s DUP, which props up May’s minority government, has already deflated Johnson’s alternative; they say it could result in a hard border with Ireland, which the DUP opposes.

The Johnson plan is a direct challenge to May; he has continually refused to rule out challenging May for the leadership. Only 15% of Conservative MPs are needed to force a confidence vote at the conference. While May has pledged to fight off any challenge, Brexiteers smell blood. The PM remains at serious risk of a Johnson challenge sooner rather than later.

Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.