May stares down rebels to win leadership ballot

UNDER FIRE Prime Minister Theresa May

The move prompted dozens of members of Parliament to write letters stating they had no confidence in the prime minister, and Wednesday morning, May announced she was facing a vote on her leadership.

This would be the "nuclear option" and could see scores of Tory MPs losing their seats in a subsequent election, possibly leading to a future schism that would see the Conservative party split into many factions. Herewith an update on the latest in the Brexit saga. Under the party's rules, May's leadership can not be challenged for at least a year now. It is after this statement when Labour could formally trigger a no-confidence vote.

"She may have clung on to the Conservative leadership, but her remaining authority has been fatally undermined", Sturgeon said.

May has promised to re-submit her Brexit deal for a vote in the House of Commons by January 21.

Conservative MPs briefed that May had told them she did not intend to lead the party in the next general election due in 2022. But deep divisions remain on all sides of the House of Commons over the so-called "backstop", a temporary customs arrangement created to prevent the need for checkpoints at the Irish border if a long-term solution between the United Kingdom and European Union can not be agreed post-Brexit.

May needs to win the support of 158 of her MPs - just over half - in order to defeat the no confidence motion, which was triggered when 48 Tories demanded a ballot.

May promised members of her party that she would stand down before the 2022 general election in a last-ditch bid to win their support and United Kingdom bookmakers were confident she would emerge victorious.

Some reassurance was on offer from German chancellor Angela Merkel, who said on Wednesday that an orderly Brexit can still be achieved: "We have little time left, but we do still have enough time". Probably not. Those MPs nearly certainly don't want a General Election, which would put their jobs on the line and potentially see the most left-wing Labour leader ever get power.

"This, to me, displays that some European Union leaders at least, are still not convinced that she has the numbers and if she doesn't, that is why they're floating the ideas around Article 50 delay or revocation".

And, according to MPs present at the meeting, she also promised to find a "legally binding solution" to ensuring that the United Kingdom does not get permanently trapped in a backstop arrangement to keep the Irish border open after Brexit.

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They agreed the withdrawal agreement is "the best outcome available" and "cannot be reopened or contradicted".

A golden rule of British politics is that voters do not vote for divided parties.

"That must start here in Westminster with politicians on all sides coming together and acting in the national interest". However, because their party was decimated in the 2015 general election, they have but 11 MPs, and therefore comparatively less influence.

The backstop has been opposed by unionists over fears it could split Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. I would urge all colleagues to get behind her, give her their full support.

May has bought herself some time, but not much.

"For my part I have heard what the House of Commons said about the Northern Ireland backstop and when I go to the European Council tomorrow I will be seeking legal and political assurances that will alleviate the concerns that members of parliament have".

Paul Webb, professor of politics at the University of Sussex, said the vote reflects only what is happening inside the Conservative parliamentary party at the moment.

"She clearly doesn't have the confidence of the Commons".

Conservative MPs have been warned by chief whip Julian Smith not to absent themselves from parliament next week, because the government must be "alive to opposition tactics in the run-up to the recess".

Why did the vote happen?

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