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Theresa May pressured To Step Down 03/24 10:47

Theresa May pressured To Step Down     03/24 10:47

   LONDON (AP) -- Prime Minister Theresa May faces growing pressure from within 
her own party either to resign or to set a date for stepping down as a way to 
build support for her Brexit agreement with the European Union, British media 
reported Sunday.

   Senior Conservative Party figures were urging May to recognize her weakened 
political position and leave the prime minister's post. However, there was no 
indication from Downing Street a resignation was near.

   Some of the party's key supporters of a "hard" Brexit that would see Britain 
leave the EU even without a withdrawal deal in place planned to meet with May 
Sunday afternoon at Chequers, the prime minister's country residence.

   May thus far has been unable to generate enough support in Parliament for 
the deal her government and the EU reached late last year. Lawmakers voted down 
the Brexit plan twice, and May has raised the possibility of bringing it back a 
third time if enough legislators appear willing to switch their votes.

   Treasury chief Philip Hammond said Sunday that senior party members plotting 
to remove May were being "self-indulgent." He said a change of leadership would 
not provide a solution to the U.K.'s political deadlock on Brexit.

   "We've got to address the question of what type of Brexit is acceptable to 
Parliament, what type of way forward Parliament can agree on so that we can 
avoid what would be an economic catastrophe of a no-deal exit and also what 
would be a very big challenge to confidence in our political system if we 
didn't exit at all," Hammond said.

   Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, mentioned as a possible caretaker 
prime minister should May be ousted, said Sunday that talk of a Cabinet revolt 
was far-fetched speculation.

   The Cabinet is focused on the best way to get May's withdrawal plan passed 
in the House of Commons, Lidington said.

   The U.K.'s departure from the EU was set to take place on March 29, but the 
absence of an approved divorce agreement prompted May last week to ask the 
leaders of the 27 remaining member nations for a postponement.

   The leaders rejected May's request to extend the deadline until June 30. 
Instead, they agreed to delay Brexit until May 22, on the eve of EU Parliament 
elections, if the prime minister can persuade Parliament to endorse the 
twice-rejected agreement.

   If she is unable to rally support for the withdrawal agreement, the European 
leaders said Britain only has until April 12 to choose between leaving the EU 
without a divorce deal and a radically new path, such as revoking the decision 
to leave the bloc or calling another voter referendum on Brexit.

   Parliament may take a series of votes this week to determine what proposals, 
if any, could command majority support.

   Conservative Party legislator George Freeman tweeted Saturday night that the 
U.K. needs a new leader if the Brexit process is to move forward.

   "I'm afraid it's all over for the PM. She's done her best. But across the 
country you can see the anger. Everyone feels betrayed," Freeman tweeted. "This 
can't go on. We need a new PM who can reach out & build some sort of 
coalition for a Plan B/"

   Under Conservative Party rules, May cannot face a formal leadership 
challenge from within her own party until December because she survived one 
three months ago. But she may be persuaded that her position is untenable if 
Cabinet ministers and other senior party members desert her.

   Her bid for fresh support for her withdrawal plan has so far failed to win 
backing from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which usually 
provides crucial votes for May's minority government.

   She also faces pressure from groups demanding a second Brexit referendum. 
Huge crowds turned out Saturday for an anti-Brexit protest march in London. 
Organizers claimed more than 1 million people attended.


(KA)