British prime minister Theresa May won the confidence of her parliamentary party 200 to 117 votes on Wednesday night but the scale of rebellion left her politically weakened, without changing the reality of her inability to get her current Brexit deal through parliament.
As many as 117 Conservative MPs expressed lack of confidence in their prime minister, a development highlighted by them and opposition leaders.
After winning the vote, May is safe in her role for now, but as Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said: “She may have clung on to the Conservative leadership, but her remaining authority has been fatally undermined.”
May also admitted that “a significant number of my colleagues did cast a vote against me”.
Addressing party MPs before voting began, May sought to assuage her critics by declaring that she would not lead the party at the next election in 2022, but was keen to see through Brexit, which is due to happen on March 29, 2019.
Senior Labour MP John McDonnell said: “Shocking result for Theresa May. Even having offered to go before the next general election she still has a huge 117 Tory MPs, a third of her party, voting against her and not having confidence in her. Wow”.
The leadership vote was triggered by two recent developments: ennui over the so-called ‘backstop’ for Northern Ireland in the legally enforceable withdrawal agreement, and May deferring Tuesday’s vote in the House of Commons on the agreement after realising it did not have any chance being passed in parliament. It is now likely to be put to vote before January 21.
Voting by as many as 117 MPs reveals that opposition to her goes beyond the hardline European Research Group (ERG) within the party that lobbies for a clean break from the EU. ERG chair Jacob Rees-Mogg called on her to resign since as prime minister she is unable to ensure passage of her agreement through parliament.
May said outside 10, Downing Street after winning the vote: “Following this ballot, we now need to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people and building a better future for this country – a Brexit that delivers on the vote that people gave, that brings back control of our money, our borders and our laws, that protects jobs, security and the union (and) that brings the country back together, rather than entrenching division”.
“That must start here in Westminster with politicians on all sides coming together and acting in the national interest. 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 assuage the concerns that members of Parliament have on that issue”.
May was due to travel to Ireland and other EU countries to seek changes in the withdrawal agreement in a way that satisfies rebels enough to get it passed through parliament.
First Published: Dec 13, 2018 08:53 IST
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