Theresa May is fighting for her job as British prime minister after being told she will face a vote of no confidence in her leadership, throwing the UK into fresh turmoil and Brexit into disarray.
Graham Brady, the senior Conservative Party official who runs the leadership process, announced the vote will be held on Wednesday after at least 48 Tory members of Parliament wrote to him saying they no longer have confidence in May as leader.
The leadership challenge eats into the time available to get a Brexit deal through Parliament before exit day on March 29. It increases the chances of a pro-Brexit Tory taking over, and pursuing a more dramatic split from the bloc than the one May was pursuing. The pound pared gains.
Despite triggering a vote, it’s not a given May will be ousted. Her opponents needed only 48 lawmakers to get this far, but now need 158 lawmakers to win it.
If she does win, May cannot face another such confidence vote for a year. May’s decision to pull the vote on her Brexit deal enraged MPs who oppose the accord she reached in Brussels. She was meant to be in Europe on Wednesday trying to improve the deal ahead of an EU summit on Thursday and Friday. May won support from senior allies in her government, including potential leadership rivals such as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd.
But the party’s euro-skeptic European Research Group issued a statement saying May must be ousted - because her Brexit deal fails to deliver what the country needs.
“Theresa May’s plan would bring down the government if carried forward,” the group’s chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg and deputy chairman Steve Baker said in a statement. “Our party will rightly not tolerate it. Conservatives must now answer whether they wish to draw ever closer to an election under Mrs May’s leadership. In the national interest, she must go.”
The leadership crisis was triggered after May took the dramatic decision on Monday to postpone a crunch vote in Parliament on whether to approve or reject the Brexit deal she has struck with the European Union.
She admitted at the time that she would have lost that vote and has launched a drive to secure fresh concessions on the terms of the divorce from EU leaders, so far without success.