But analysts say Mrs. May herself opened the door to the arguments now being voiced by Mr. Francois and others like him, including Nigel Farage, the former U.K.I.P. leader who has just formed the hard-line Brexit Party.
In a recent speech to rally Britons behind her Brexit deal, Mrs. May pitted the public against their representatives, saying, “I am on your side.” And months after the 2016 Brexit referendum, she set the stage for negotiations by attacking what she described as the “citizen of nowhere,” a class of “international elites” at odds with “the people down the road.”
That, said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, has poisoned the discourse.
“She has really handled these negotiations through a series of slogans that have legitimized attitudes and language that otherwise, I think, would have been kept where they belong,” he said. “In other words, in a box that few responsible politicians would have wanted to open.”
Britain’s two main political parties have traditionally tried to placate lawmakers on the fringes. The last Conservative leader, David Cameron made Mr. Francois a lead lawmaker on European Union issues, despite the two holding radically different views.
But Brexit has broken that big-tent approach, forcing rival Conservative factions to confront the tangled reality of leaving the European Union. For hard-liners, any compromise amounts to humiliation.
The Human Wedge in a Fracturing U.K. Conservative Party – The New York Times