LONDON (AP) â British Prime Minister Theresa May was under mounting pressure today to take sides in the Conservative Partyâs civil war over Brexit, as a new round of talks between Britain and the European Union is set to begin.
Since becoming prime minister in 2016, May has walked a fine line between two feuding factions in her party: those who want a clean break, even if it means trade barriers with Europe, and those who want to keep Britainâs economy closely aligned to the 28-nation EU.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier is due to meet British Brexit Secretary David Davis in London tomorrow ahead of a new round of talks this week. The two sides have just months to negotiate future relations before Britain leaves in March 2019.
First, Britain must decide what it wants. Tensions within Mayâs government are spiking ahead of meetings of senior ministers this week to hammer out a negotiating position.
Sundayâs newspapers teemed with allegations of plots against May by âhard Brexitâ rivals including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, head of the pro-Brexit European Reform Group in the British Parliament.
The Sunday Times claimed pro-Brexit lawmakers are prepared to topple May if she tries to compromise and keep Britain in the EUâs tariff-free customs union.
They accuse Treasury chief Philip Hammond, who favours a âsoft Brexit,â of trying to block Britainâs EU exit.
Euroskeptic politicians have also turned on civil servants for allegedly promoting a gloomy picture of the economic impact upon Britain for leaving the bloc.
Mayâs grip on power was weakened when she called an early election last year in hopes of increasing her majority and strengthening her hand in Brexit talks. Instead, voters left her atop a minority government that relies on support from a small Northern Ireland party to stay in power.
May insisted last week that she is ânot a quitterâ and intends to lead Britain through Brexit.
Mayâs allies defended her leadership on Sunday, but did not make clear what sort of final relationship with the EU the government wants.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Britain was open to âeither a customs arrangement or a customs partnershipâ as part of a deal to deliver âfrictionlessâ trade.
And she insisted the Cabinet committee that will decide on the governmentâs Brexit stance is more united than many think.