Theresa May believes a Conservative leadership contest could threaten Brexit

Theresa May. Sky News / Ridge on Sunday
  • Theresa May says there are not yet enough no-confidence letters to trigger a leadership contest against her.
  • The Conservative Prime Minster appeared on the Sky News programme “Ridge on Sunday” to discuss her Brexit deal, and the pro-Brexit MPs from her own party who have rebelled against her.
  • But May had a message for the rebels, and that message is this: A change of leadership could threaten Brexit itself.

Theresa May believes a new Conservative leadership contest could threaten Brexit.

The embattled British prime minister has faced the biggest test of her premiership after ministers including the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and the Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey resigned to protest her Brexit plans.

May negotiated a deal with the European Union and made the draft agreement public earlier this week. But some pro-Brexit Conservative MPs rallied against it because the UK will be in a customs union with the EU for years after Brexit, unable to sign meaningful trade deals with other countries, without the unilateral right to leave.

Prominent Conservatives like Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nadine Dorries, and Zac Goldsmith handed in letters of no-confidence in May. If 48 (15% of) Conservative MPs write such letters to the chair of the 1922 Committee, it means the party has lost faith in May’s leadership and a new leadership contest must be triggered.

But May told the Sky News programme “Ridge on Sunday” that there are not currently enough letters to threaten her premiership, and even warned rebels that a new contest risks the entire Brexit process.

“As far as I know, no,” May told Sophy Ridge when asked if the 48 letter limit had been reached. “The answer to your question is no. It has not.”

May added: “A change of leadership at this point is not to make negotiations any easier and it’s not going to change the parliamentary arithmetic. What it will do is bring in a degree of uncertainty, for people and jobs, and it is a risk that we delay negotiations, and that is a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated.”

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As for a potential leadership challenge, the BBC reports that there are currently 24 Conservative MPs who have publicly handed in letters. But it is believed there could be some others who have done so in private.