Mrs. May says her ideas would remove the need for checks on the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, which will remain in the European Union. But that plan was blown apart at a summit meeting in Salzburg, Austria, where other European leaders decided it was too much like Mr. Johnson’s boast that, with Brexit, Britain could have its cake and eat it, too.
“Those who explain that we can easily live without Europe, that everything is going to be all right, and that it’s going to bring a lot of money home are liars,” declared President Emmanuel Macron of France. “It’s even more true since they left the day after so as not to have to deal with it.”
On arriving home, the prime minister got no more comfort from a vocal pro-Brexit section of her party.
“Theresa May is in for a rough ride,” said Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative member of Parliament, said last week, as the Tory conference approached. “She’s flogging this horse of Chequers. It’s flogging a dead horse. I’m not sure it’s not the last horse she’s got to ride.”
With six months until Britain’s scheduled departure, a void remains, leaving Britain stuck — unable to move forward or to rethink Brexit without risking a backlash from those who voted for withdrawal.
Mrs. May’s supporters say privately that delaying is a good negotiating tactic, and that her leverage will increase as the cliff edge looms closer. There is some truth to this. Other European Union nations would be damaged economically by a disorderly Brexit. And her critics in Parliament, where she has no real majority, may agree to any deal she can bring back if the alternative is imminent chaos.
Her team plays down the dangers, at least for now.
“There are certainly risks of short-term disruption,” Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, said in a recent interview with the international media.