It has been a tough week for Theresa May, who has spent the last few days in Brussels at a crunch Brexit summit with EU leaders.
With just five months to go before Britain leaves the EU, the Prime Minister is facing mounting pressure over the fact she has still yet to strike an exit deal, with the potential return of a hard border in Ireland forming the major stumbling block in negotiations.
But as the summit came to a close on Thursday evening, it was rumours that the PM could agree to extend the UK’s Brexit transition period beyond 2020 in a bid to secure a deal that sparked fury from Tory MPs.
While leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg described the move as a “poor attempt at kicking the can down the road”, pro-EU MP Nick Boles said it would be “madness”.
But despite the blue-on-blue attacks dominating the newspapers this morning, is a Brexit deal actually more likely after this latest summit?
Friends In High Places
In fact, it could be the fury of May’s own party – along with criticism from Labour and the DUP – that pushes Britain closer to leaving the EU with a deal.
According to the Guardian, EU leaders are ready to pursue “all avenues” in order to help the PM find a deal that would not automatically be voted down by Parliament when brought back to MPs and avoid the UK crashing out of the EU.
“I think where there is a will, there is a way,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reported to have said, while it is thought the President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, told leaders May needs “help” to sell a deal back in Blighty.
The Times goes one step further, reporting that Germany and France are in “deal mode”. According to the newspaper, Merkel and President Macron have urged the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier to guarantee that Europe will not impose a customs border in the Irish sea in order to give May room to sell the deal back home.
What About Theresa May’s Job Security?
There’s no arguing with fact that May has attracted serious criticism from her own benches in the past 24 hours.
While staunch Brexiteer Nadine Dorries called for former Brexit secretary David Davis to step in as “interim leader” over the possibility of an extended transition period, Tory backbencher Johnny Mercer described the current administration as a “shit show” in a fiery interview on Thursday.
But removal vans are unlikely to be pulling up outside Number 10 this weekend.
Not only would a plot to oust May need the support of 50% of Conservative MPs – 159 politicians – to work, but it has been reported that the Cabinet has already given the controversial plan to extend the transition their backing.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Friday, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said that Tory MPs must rally behind their leader, adding: “Theresa May has not buckled, she has stood firm.”
According to Hunt, “all but one or two issues” on Brexit have been settled in exit talks.
So it looks like – for now at least – May will continue to try and thrash out a deal with the EU.