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Members Of British Prime Minister Theresa May's Party Join Calls For Her To Resign


To the U.K. now where pressure is mounting fast for Prime Minister Theresa May to resign. This evening, a Cabinet member in charge of the government's parliamentary business quit, saying May's approach cannot deliver Brexit. Yesterday Theresa May did try again to resuscitate her plan to take Britain out of the European Union. This latest attempt was roundly panned. Meanwhile, tomorrow, voters in the U.K. are expected to deliver May's Conservative Party a humiliating defeat in European parliamentary elections.

Well, let's bring in NPR's Frank Langfitt, who's tracking all this from London. Hey, Frank.


KELLY: Start with this Cabinet resignation today. How significant is it?

LANGFITT: It's - it is - it's quite significant - inevitable, but it's embarrassing. And it'll be interesting looking back maybe two weeks from now if this is the fatal blow that ends the premiership of Theresa May. Andrea Leadsom is in charge, as you were saying, of managing the government's business in the House of Commons. What she said in a letter tonight is she's lost faith in May's ability to deliver on the 2016 Brexit referendum decision.

Leadsom also, it's worth noting, is among many members of Parliament who are expected to run to replace May in the campaign. And that campaign is already, frankly, started. There is a sense here that the politics of the country is already moving on even though Prime Minister May is still in No. 10 Downing Street.

KELLY: But she is still in No. 10 Downing Street.


KELLY: She is still prime minister, and she's been in political trouble for months. Does this really feel different?

LANGFITT: I think it does. I mean, I think yesterday what you saw - and people responding to it - it was effectively a political Hail Mary. It failed. It was discarded pretty much not just by the Conservative Party but also Labour. And what she was doing was offering basically a possibility for Parliament to vote on putting a Brexit referendum back to the people as long as the House of Commons would back her Brexit exit deal, which has failed three times before.

This infuriated Brexiteers, including Leadsom, who wrote to oppose it and said this second referendum would be very divisive for a country that's already polarized. And I guess the sense that I have, Mary Louise, where this feels different than the conversations we've been having now for many months...

KELLY: Yeah.

LANGFITT: ...Is everybody's pretty exhausted. And it's not just her policies. They feel like there really is no longer any judgment there and that she cannot move the country forward.

KELLY: Meanwhile, I mentioned tomorrow there are elections. This is for the European Parliament. How does that factor in to what's going on in Britain?

LANGFITT: Well, it figures a lot. Normally you and I wouldn't even be discussing a topic like this. This wouldn't get a lot of news, but a lot of people are focused on it not just here but also of course across the European Union. The prime minister's inability to deliver Brexit - it has been almost three years since the vote - it's really alienated a lot of people in her party.

Last night I went to a huge rally of this new Brexit party that we've been reporting on. It's only - less than six weeks old, and they're already way ahead in polls for tomorrow's vote. I was talking to a number of Conservative Party members who really feel that May's betrayed them. This is a woman named June Salih.

JUNE SALIH: I've been a Tory voter since I was 21, and I'm 72. She's totally taken our rights away from us. And we're now in a dictatorship.

LANGFITT: Now, of course, Mary Louise, that's total hyperbole. The United Kingdom is not a dictatorship. However, I've been talking to Brexit supporters now really for the last six to eight weeks travelling around England, and I'm hearing a lot of this kind of incendiary language.

KELLY: Well, in the moments we have left, Frank, I know you keep saying you are done making predictions about Brexit, but what the heck? I'm going to ask you to go there. How much longer do you think Theresa May has?

LANGFITT: She's definitely got a couple more days. I think on Friday, leader of Conservative backbenchers in the Parliament is going to go talk to her about stepping down. She's hunkered down tonight in No. 10. But I think if the results are very bad on Sunday, it's hard to see - once we get those vote results, it's hard to see how she stays on for much longer.

KELLY: NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Frank Langfitt
Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as the war in Ukraine and its implications in Europe. Langfitt has reported from more than fifty countries and territories around the globe.