James Forsyth

Can Theresa May make it to the end of the Brexit talks?

Can Theresa May make it to the end of the Brexit talks?
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If the last few months should have taught us political commentators anything, it is to be wary of making predictions. So, this is more of a report on what people are thinking than a prediction. But, as I write in The Sun this morning, there is an increasing confidence among May loyalists that she can make it to the end of the Brexit talks.

One of the things that gives those charged with maintaining party discipline hope that May can do this is that whenever a leadership contender is seen to be plotting, it hurts their standing with Tory MPs. The old Tory adage that he who wields the dagger, will never wear the crown is holding true—and acting as a deterrent to anyone moving against the PM.

There are two other buttresses of May’s position. The first is that the Brexit talks are now properly underway. Breaking off from the negotiations to hold a leadership contest would look rather self-indulgent of the Tories. Second, there’s Jeremy Corbyn. The prospect of a Corbyn premiership horrifies pretty much every Tory MP. As one Minister who campaigned passionately for Remain puts it, 'The differences among us over Brexit are large but they’re still smaller than those between us and Corbyn’.

Having said this, the government needs to get on the front foot on the EU issue. I understand that Downing Street is thinking of a major speech in September, possibly by the Prime Minister, setting out more of its thinking on Brexit and transition arrangements. This speech cannot come soon enough. For the government needs to offer greater clarity on what it wants Britain’s path out of the European Union to look like.

May’s relationship with the country, her MPs and her party is never going to go back to how it was before the election. But in time, May may begin to get some credit for keeping going when others would have walked away.