Why Theresa May is expected to announce departure date

Theresa May Image copyright Reuters

Unless something extremely strange happens in the next couple of days, it is now, really, nearly over.

Several cabinet ministers have told me they expect Theresa May to announce her departure from Downing Street on Friday.

A senior minister said: "She's going to go - if it's to be done, it's best to be done quickly."

Another said it would be "unforgivable" for her to try to stay on now.

One of those who has been most loyal to her said: "It might be tomorrow or Saturday, but it can't be past Sunday."

Multiple sources have said they expect the prime minister to give the timetable for her successor to be chosen on Friday, with 10 June likely to be the start of the official leadership contest.

That would be after the visit from President Trump and the Peterborough by-election the previous week.

Most ministers I've talked to today say they hope the campaign for the next prime minister can be compressed, so it's finished by the end of July but there is not yet much clarity about that.

Why now though? It's not as if Theresa May's been having an easy time of it for months.

You guessed it, it's Brexit, and what's accelerated her departure was trying - again - to put her Brexit plans to Parliament.

'Crossed a line'

It's only two days since she outlined the details of her planned offer. It made things worse in her own party, and had nothing like the impact on the Labour Party that Number 10 had hoped for.

But critically, as one member of her cabinet said, "it crossed a line for them".

So her party won't accept the plan and now her cabinet won't either, there is almost zero chance of it ever making it to Parliament.

And with no hope for the deal she stayed on to try to pass, there is almost no hope for her.

'Men in grey suits'

Downing Street was still tight-lipped on Thursday night, although senior figures have made it clear they "get the mood" of the party, and are no longer trying to look for a way out.

Theresa May, meanwhile, was understood to be at home in her constituency with her husband - the only two people in the country who know exactly what will happen next.

One of Theresa May's cabinet colleagues was adamant to me earlier that instead she "will stay and fight on - there's no way she'll be taken out by the men in grey suits".

But she is already scheduled to meet Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers in the morning, who is thought to be planning to give her until Monday to name a date.

It is possible that an early statement outlining her plans to leave office, could come before that.

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