British Prime Minister Theresa May is planning an early general election in November to save her leadership and to prevent the collapse of talks with European leaders over Britain’s exit from the bloc, according to a report by the Sunday Times newspaper.
The report comes just days after EU leaders rejected the Conservative party leader’s preferred plan for leaving the EU, the so-called Chequers agreement.
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Under the plan, the United Kingdom would enter into a free trade area with the European Union, which would have common rules and standards in several major industries, and maintain customs duties regulations but end freedom of movement between EU member states and the UK.
EU leaders dismissed the proposals as unworkable at a meeting they attended with May in Salzburg earlier this week.
The Sunday Times spoke to two senior aides to May, who said they were planning to announce a new general election to secure public backing for a new negotiating platform with the EU.
Citing a member of her inner circle, the newspaper also said that May was planning to step down from her role next summer.
The prime minister has found herself politically boxed in by the EU abroad and at home by both opponents of Brexit who want a second referendum and ‘hard Brexiteers’ in her own party who want a clean break with the EU.
Her previous attempt at securing public support for her Brexit negotiating strategy fell flat when the Conservatives lost their majority in the 2017 election.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn added to the pressure on May by calling for a new vote.
“If this government can’t deliver, then I simply say to Theresa May, the best way to settle this is by having a general election,” he told the Labour Party conference this weekend.
Senior members of Labour back a new referendum on leaving the EU, and Corbyn has hinted recently that he would back calls if a majority of Labour members wanted a new vote.
The UK has until March to secure a deal on the terms of its exit from the EU. Not doing so will result in a ‘no deal’ Brexit, in which the UK leaves the bloc without an agreement and reverts to World Trade Organisation rules on trade with the EU.
That could lead to a significant rise in prices and declining growth, according to economists.