LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May reshuffled her cabinet a bit Sunday and mostly kept out of the public eye as she worked to strike a deal with a small party of hard-right unionists in Northern Ireland to prop up her government, which lacks a majority in Parliament.
As May and her representatives wrangled with the Democratic Unionist Party, based in Belfast, her fellow Tories were grumbling that the Conservative prime minister had not only bungled the campaign, but also was performing poorly in the days after its surprising conclusion Thursday.
On the Sunday talk shows in Britain, former Tory chancellor George Osborne, now editor of the Evening Standard and a sharp-tongued critic of the prime minister, called May “a dead woman walking” and suggested that she would be out of office by next year.
It’s just a question of, Osborne told Sky News, “how long she is going to remain on death row.”
Anna Soubry, a Conservative member of Parliament, said she could not predict when May might go but called the prime minister’s position “untenable.”
Other Tories, while avoiding such brutal assessments, were more forthright in predicting that the prime minister is unlikely to lead the Conservative Party in any future elections.
Asked how she felt after the election, in which the Tories won the most seats but failed to secure a mandate or a majority, May told British broadcasters, “What I’m feeling is that actually there is a job to be done and I think what the public wants is to ensure that the government is getting on with that job.”
It is too early to know what will happen in the coming days to May — and, more important to the global economy, how the Conservative government will approach negotiations over Britain’s exit from the European Union, scheduled to begin in a week.
The disruption of recent weeks has not only created worries in Europe, already antsy on the eve of Brexit negotiations, but also appears to have crossed the Atlantic.
President Trump’s plans to visit Britain are now apparently on hold, although that may have more to do with his spat with London’s mayor after the recent terrorist attack than with the results of the British election.
Trump recently told May in a phone call that he does not want to go forward with a state visit to Britain until the public here supports the trip, according to a report first published in the Guardian newspaper.
The White House call was made “in recent weeks,” said a Downing Street adviser who was in the room, the Guardian reported.
Asked whether Trump had spoken to May about postponing his trip to London, which remains unscheduled, White House spokesman Raj Shah said Sunday: “The president has tremendous respect for Prime Minister May. That subject never came up on the call.”
May’s office said the Trump state visit was still on. “The queen extended an invitation to President Trump to visit the U.K., and there is no change to those plans,” a spokeswoman for the prime minister said.
Formal Brexit talks are scheduled to start June 19, the same day as the Queen’s Speech, to be delivered by Queen Elizabeth II from the throne of the House of Lords. The speech, written by May’s ministers, includes a list of the laws the government hopes to get approved by Parliament over the coming year.
Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, who pushed for Britain to leave the E.U. but has been absent from the public stage since the election, denied news accounts that he was maneuvering to replace May.
In a tweet, Johnson called the idea “tripe.”
Johnson said he is backing May. “Let’s get on with the job,” he tweeted.
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon disagreed Sunday that May was mortally wounded and said he expected the Tory members of Parliament to support her this week.
May’s main opponent, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, appeared on the Sunday talk shows, too, looking either “serene” or “smug” — depending on the commentator’s measure of the man. Labour came out of Thursday’s election with a substantial growth spurt.
Corbyn said it is “quite possible” that there will be another election this year or early next year. “We cannot continue like this,” he said, predicting that even a loose alliance between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland cannot endure.
Another top Labour leader, John McDonnell, said Sunday that May’s partnership with the Irish unionists will be a “coalition of chaos.”
On Saturday evening, the prime minister’s office suggested a deal had been struck for a “confidence and supply” agreement with the DUP, a socially conservative and traditionalist movement. Downing Street said the deal would be revealed Monday to the cabinet.
But Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, said, “Discussions will continue next week to work on the details and to reach agreement on arrangements for the new Parliament.”
One of the prime minister’s representatives was then forced to put out another statement, explaining that no final deal had been struck and suggesting that talks will drag into this week.
“As and when details are finalized, both parties will put them forward,” an official in May’s office said.
Tories said the deal with DUP should be completed this week and will include an economic aid package for Northern Ireland and the promise that there would be no referendum on the question of unifying Northern Ireland — a part of the United Kingdom along with England, Scotland and Wales — with the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign nation and a member of the European Union.
Shake-ups — and plenty of finger-pointing — began soon after the election results came in.
On Sunday, May named her cabinet. Most of the ministers remained in their seats. A few were demoted; a few rose.
There was one real surprise. May appointed Michael Gove as environment secretary. Gove challenged May for the leadership of the Conservatives in the aftermath of the Brexit vote — and lost.
On Saturday, two top aides of May resigned and a former minister acknowledged that Tories were plotting possible replacements via the messaging service WhatsApp.
The aides who resigned, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, May’s fiercely loyal co-chiefs of staff, had been widely blamed within the Conservative Party for the lackluster campaign that ended with the Tories losing their majority in Parliament.
Supporters of a hard exit from the European Union were watching May this weekend for any sign that she might be steering toward a softer departure from Europe’s trade and governing bloc.
On Saturday evening, the prime minister’s office announced a new chief of staff, former minister Gavin Barwell, who lost his seat in the election.
The choice did not go down well with Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party and a leading force behind Brexit.
Farage on Sunday called Barwell’s selection the “worst possible start” for May, because her new chief of staff opposed leaving the European Union and is viewed as squishy on Brexit.
Worse, during last year’s referendum on the measure, Barwell called Farage a “racist” who “hates modern Britain.”
Jenna Johnson in Branchburg, N.J., contributed to this report.