- Theresa May has survived a confidence vote in her leadership.
- She won by a vote of 200 to 117.
- The scale of the rebellion against May was significantly larger than most predictions, signalling that she faces a huge battle to win support for her Brexit deal in Parliament.
LONDON – Theresa May has survived a confidence vote in her leadership by Conservative MPs, meaning she can continue to serve as prime minister.
However, more than a third of Conservative MPs expressed their lack of confidence in the prime minister, with 117 voting for her to stand down and 200 saying she should remain in place.
The scale of the rebellion against May was significantly larger than most predictions, suggesting that she still has a mountain to climb to win over her party in order to pass her Brexit plans through Parliament.
Speaking on Downing St. after the vote, May said “a significant number of colleagues did cast a vote against me, and I have listened to what they said.”
She said she would seek “legal assurances” from her EU counterparts about the controversial Northern Irish backstop measure in her Brexit plan that many of her colleagues fiercely oppose.
The result means May can remain as Conservative Party leader without a further confidence vote being held for another year.
However, the scale of the no-confidence vote in her leadership and her pledge to stand down before the next election means the race to replace her will now start in earnest.
Victory for May comes at a price
Theresa May: In my heart, I would like to lead the party into the next election, but I accept that won’t happen
Victory came only after the prime minister assured MPs on Wednesday evening that she would stand down before the next general election.
“In my heart I would like to lead the party into the next election, but I accept that won’t happen,” May told Conservative MPs.
Reacting to the news, the opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the result “makes no difference to the lives of our people.”
“The prime minister has lost her majority in Parliament, her government is in chaos, and she is unable to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the country and puts jobs and the economy first,” he said.
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose European Research Group of anti-EU MPs spearheaded the attempt to oust May, described the result as “terrible” for May’s leadership.
“It’s a terrible result for the prime minister,” Mogg said. “The prime minister must realise that on all constitutional norms she ought to go and see the Queen urgently.”
“She clearly doesn’t have the confidence of the Commons. She should make way for someone who does,” he continued.
Why did the vote happen?
The vote was held after at least 48 Conservative MPs sent letters to Tory MP Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, expressing no confidence in Theresa May’s leadership of the party.
Many Conservative MPs are unhappy with the Brexit plan she negotiated in Brussels, and discontent reached a tipping point when she delayed a parliamentary vote on the deal that was scheduled for Tuesday.
Speaking after the vote, Theresa May said she would return to Brussels on Thursday to seek legal assurances over the “backstop” measure in her Brexit plans. The backstop is an emergency option, which would kick in if the UK and EU has not wrapped up a free trade agreement by the end of the Brexit transition window in 2020.
While the backstop would mean that no hard border emerges on the island of Ireland, it would also mean the UK stay in the EU’s customs territory with no obvious exit strategy and would require checks on goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, something unpalatable to many Conservative MPs.
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