For the second time in her brief premiership, Theresa May faces a battle for survival. If she prevails, it will be as the leader of a new political construct in Britain: the single-party coalition government. Ever since the disastrous 2017 election, in which her Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority and the prime minister faced calls to resign, the government has resembled a giant scrum. Heavyweights on both sides of the Brexit divide — those who want a hard, clean break with Europe and those who want the closest ties consistent with leaving — have vied for dominance.

The divisions over Europe run deep and go back to at least Margaret Thatcher’s days — but open dissent became institutionalized in January 2016, when U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron released his government from the binding principle of collective responsibility on the issue of Brexit. Ministers were free to campaign and vote according to their conscience. Many, including Boris Johnson, did so to de...

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