EU, Labor Party fear British PM’s gov’t could collapse by end of 2017

Theresa May’s government in London could possibly collapse by the end of the year, European Union and Labor Party leaders said Thursday.

After two resignations in the British government in the last week and fears that Prime Minister Theresa May's administration could soon collapse, European Union leaders are considering an extension to 'Brexit' negotiations. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo
After two resignations in the British government in the last week and fears that Prime Minister Theresa May’s administration could soon collapse, European Union leaders are considering an extension to ‘Brexit’ negotiations. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

Negotiations involving the country’s exit from the EU resumed Thursday as Britain’s Conservative Party government reels from a series of forced resignations by cabinet ministers.

Priti Patel, Britain’s international development secretary, resigned Wednesday after it was revealed that she’d conducted unauthorized meetings with Israeli politicians. She was replaced Thursday by Penny Mordaunt, who will lead the department overseeing Britain’s $17 billion foreign aid budget.

Last week, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon resigned after he was named in a Parliament sexual-misconduct scandal.

“We are in a very unstable situation at the heart of government and that random events could bring the government down,” opposition Labor Party leader Tom Watson said, calling for additional details of Patel’s actions.

“If true, it shows that there was knowledge that Priti Patel was running a sort of independent foreign policy earlier — and that she’s not been sacked for breaching the ministerial code in doing that, but she’s been sacked because it became public that she was doing that.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is also under pressure to resign after his comment last week to a parliament committee that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British citizen arrested in Iran last year on espionage charges, was in the country to teach journalism. She said she was in Iran for humanitarian purposes, and Iranian authorities, regarding Johnson’s comments as a confession, are considering an additional five-year sentence for her.

The government instability has prompted suggestions that the two-year negotiations on Britain’s EU exit be extended. The idea was approved by Germany’s council of economists, which presented its annual report to Chancellor Angela Merkel this week.

“The length of the Brexit negotiations is of some concern to us,” said Christoph Schmidt, the council’s chairman. “We anticipate a lot of damage for all parties, most of all for Great Britain, of course, if a hard disorderly Brexit were to happen.”

Britain is resisting an extension that would mean a continuation of EU membership after March 30, 2019, the scheduled date of transition. Another option that has significant EU support is an extension of the withdrawal talks that exclude Britain from decision-making.

By Ed Adamczyk