EU Said Open to Assurances But Not Renegotiation of Brexit Deal

EMMANUEL DUNAND  AFP  Getty Images

Conservative lawmakers in Britain will hold a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday that could see her removed as the leader of her party, and the British government. But she said the only other options were a disorderly no-deal divorce, or a reversal of Brexit that would defy the will of those who voted for it.

Ministers lined up to express loyalty to Mrs May, who said she would fight a vote of no confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party with "everything I have got".

She still has the challenge of selling her deal and not just to MPs but to party activists who are equally aggrieved that the Brexit they wanted is not what they have got.

She lost her majority after calling a snap election in 2017.

Facing her biggest political crisis since assuming office a month after Britons voted in June 2016 to leave the EU, May said a leadership change would "put our country's future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it".

One senior minister told The Herald that if his party leader won the vote, which he expected her to do handsomely, then she should immediately challenge Jeremy Corbyn to put down a confidence motion in the Conservative Government.

Possible scenarios include May's deal ultimately winning approval in a new parliamentary vote; May losing her job; Britain leaving the bloc with no deal or another referendum.

If a confidence vote is triggered, all 315 Tory MPs will be entitled to take part in a secret ballot in which they will be asked if they still have confidence in the prime minister.

Failure to reach this figure would trigger a leadership contest in which she could not stand.

The Conservatives had to build a "country that works for everyone" and deliver "the Brexit people voted for".

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Under party rules, she can not be challenged again for another year, ensuring she will still be in charge when the United Kingdom quits the European Union in March 2019.

"I doubt if she really knows what she's going to achieve", said Pippa Catterall, professor of history and policy at the University of Westminster.

But in a joint statement, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers, and his deputy Steve Baker said: "Theresa May's plan would bring down the Government if carried forward".

May had insisted that lawmakers have only two options: accept her negotiated deal, or "crash out" of the European Union with no deal.

May could also be ousted by MPs from within her own Conservative Party and British media are full of speculation on potential contenders.

"I feel really sorry for Theresa May", she said.

If all Tory lawmakers cast ballots, May needs 158 votes to win, though a narrow victory could leave her weakened and under pressure to resign.

She insisted she would stay on to "finish the job" she has set herself as Prime Minister. But he adds: "If there are two candidates, and that is the expectation - there will be a postal ballot and that inevitably takes longer".

The last time such a ballot took place was in 2005, when David Cameron and David Davis spent over a month competing for Conservative members' support, before Cameron was announced the victor.

But some observers believe that a large vote of 100 or more against the PM might be enough to make Mrs May question whether it is worth carrying on.

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