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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 January 2019

How Europe leads to the end of British Conservative Party leaders

How Europe has cost the job of every Conservative prime minister since Margaret Thatcher

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was was ousted from her office over Europe
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was was ousted from her office over Europe

Europe has ultimately cost the job every British Conservative prime minister since Margaret Thatcher.

If Theresa May wins the confidence vote later Wednesday she will have lived to fight another day but the great dividing line in the most successful political party in the Western world will not be healed.

While Mrs May has repeatedly promised that she will be the prime minister to deliver the UK exit from Europe on March 29, 2019, the challenge she faces has welled up from the ranks of the most hardline supporters of Brexit.

Since she assumed the leadership in 2016, Mrs May has been dogged by her remain stance in the referendum that June. Brexiters don’t believe she will deliver at the ultimate hour.

David Cameron resigned after the referendum was lost in 2016. He had promised to call the vote as a political tactic to squeeze support for the United Kingdom Independence Party ahead of the 2015 election.

It was a very successful gambit but once he had a majority in the House of Commons, he was honour bound to call the vote that blew up his leadership. Mr Cameron on Wednesday tweeted that Mrs May had his full support.

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John Major, the prime minister for six and a half years in 1990s, fought a series of showdowns against the eurosceptics who opposed the European currency, the euro and the creation of the EU. At one point he called a leadership vote against himself to lance the pressure. He won but the turmoil continued.

It was all too much for the electorate who handed a landslide victory to Tony Blair in the 1997 election.

While Mrs Thatcher was a champion of the EU single market, her antipathy to Brussels as it tried to launch the euro and forge “ever closer union” at the political level at the end of the Cold War hastened her demise.

Senior cabinet ministers rebelled against the long-serving leader. Under the rules at the time, prime ministers had to win a confidence vote by a clear margin. However, on a visit to Paris Mrs Thatcher fell four votes short of an outright first round victory. Defiant, she declared: “I fight on, I fight to win”.

Within days she was gone.

Updated: December 12, 2018 05:44 PM

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