Autumn may be cold and damp in Britain, but for the country’s political parties, which hold their annual conferences in September and October, it’s one hot season.
This year, all eyes will be on Prime Minister Theresa May who plans to apologize — once again — to her fellow Conservatives for her disastrous election results earlier this summer and for the loss of her strong parliamentary majority.
She also plans to lay out further plans for Brexit negotiations, which have already begun.
It will be up to senior members of the Conservative party whether to keep May or replace her — and her rivals are already lining up. The front-runner is David Davis, the Brexit secretary in May’s cabinet.
Foreign secretary and former London Mayor Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, an outsider who stands on the right wing of the party, have also been tipped as possible successors. If May does go, the new prime minister will be installed by the party — rather than elected — as the Conservatives still have a parliamentary majority, albeit a thin one.
Earlier this year the party also made a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists to support them in parliament and to help them push through key legislation. That means it’s unlikely the current government will collapse or that another general election will be called.
All decisions will be made in an already tense environment as Britain hammers out its plan to leave the European Union and as ministers in May’s cabinet squabble over the best way forward.
The government has already made public some of its Brexit proposals. Although it plans to leave the customs union (the EU’s tariff-free trading area) after Brexit in March 2019, Britain would like a temporary, two-year customs agreement to make its exit less of a shock for businesses.
It would also be looking to create an “invisible border” with the EU, meaning there would be no customs checks between the two regions, as Britain does not want to impose tariffs on imports from the EU, post-Brexit.
Some Europeans have already dismissed the idea of an invisible border, with the European parliament’s negotiator Guy Verhofstadt calling the idea a “fantasy.”