After a tumultuous week that pitched Britain into its deepest political crisis since the Brexit referendum a year ago, May’s future was uncertain, darkened by her botched gamble on a snap election and muted response to a deadly fire in London.
Fighting for her political survival, May has been trying to strike a deal with a small Northern Irish Protestant party to avoid a second election that could delay Brexit talks and damage the $2.5 trillion economy.
While she is ultimately expected to reach a deal, a source in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) told Reuters that an agreement to support her minority government was not likely before next week. The price of such a deal remains unclear.
“If there is the expected positive outcome, it will be at least the start of next week before anything is signed off,” a DUP source told Reuters.
Besides forging a deal to keep her job and preparing for Brexit talks, May is grappling with a crisis over the breakdown in power-sharing between the pro-British DUP and the Catholic nationalist Sinn Fein party in Northern Ireland’s separate, devolved government.
She is also trying to contain outrage at home over a London tower block fire which left at least 30 people dead.
Hundreds of protesters chanting “we want justice” stormed a local town hall on Friday afternoon and May had to leave a meeting with residents under heavy police guard.
After facing criticism for not meeting survivors on Thursday, May visited a hospital on Friday to speak to some of the people who escaped the fire.
While European leaders try to gauge what to expect from the Brexit talks due to begin in Brussels on Monday, May is so weakened that her own Brexit strategy is the subject of public debate in her own party, and by her potential allies.
“We want to see a Brexit that works for everybody, not just in Northern Ireland from my perspective but in the Republic of Ireland as well, so it is about a sensible Brexit,” Foster told reporters.
Foster said the talks would not cover social issues. The DUP is one of the most socially conservative parties in Europe, having sought to maintain some of its strictest limits on abortion and consistently opposed gay marriage.
“We’re not going to get into – and I know there has been a lot of talk about our position in relation to social issues for example – those are matters for the Northern Ireland assembly – they are not matters for Westminster and therefore we will not be dealing with them at Westminster,” she told the BBC.
Addressing her party on Monday after one of its most memorable electoral failures, May said she would take a broader, more consultative approach to the Brexit talks.
But after a generation of discord over Europe inside her party, May’s future could depend on her ability to please both the eurosceptic and pro-European factions in her party.