Prime min­is­ter agrees to not run in 2022

Calgary Herald - - NP - JILL LAW­LESS

• British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May sur­vived a brush with po­lit­i­cal mor­tal­ity Wednes­day, win­ning a no-con­fi­dence vote that would have ended her lead­er­ship of party and coun­try.

May won the vote of 317 Con­ser­va­tive leg­is­la­tors with a 200-117 tally that re­flected the dis­con­tent within the party over her han­dling of Bri­tain’s exit from the Eu­ro­pean Union.

The vic­tory came at a cost: she promised not to run for re-elec­tion in 2022.

May said she was “pleased to have re­ceived the back­ing of my col­leagues” but ac­knowl­edged that “a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber” had voted against her in the se­cret bal­lot.

“I have lis­tened to what they said,” May promised as she stood in a dark­ened Down­ing Street af­ter what she called a “long and chal­leng­ing day.”

Brexit re­mains her govern­ment’s big­gest prob­lem. May is head­ing to Brus­sels to seek changes to her di­vorce deal from the Eu­ro­pean Union to make it more palat­able to Par­lia­ment.

It’s a for­mi­da­ble task; a se­nior mem­ber of a North­ern Irish po­lit­i­cal party that props up May’s govern­ment said her sur­vival did not soften the party’s view on the deal.

“I don’t think this vote re­ally changes very much in terms of the arith­metic on that and that’s our con­cern,” Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party, told BBC tele­vi­sion.

The DUP is deeply op­posed to a key part of the Brexit deal, the so-called back­stop ar­range­ment for the bor­der be­tween EU mem­ber state Ire­land and the British prov­ince of North­ern Ire­land.

The con­fi­dence vote came af­ter May’s Con­ser­va­tive op­po­nents, who cir­cled the weak­ened prime min­is­ter for weeks hop­ing to spark a no­con­fi­dence vote, fi­nally got the num­bers they needed to call one.

The vote was trig­gered when at least 48 law­mak­ers — 15 per cent of Con­ser­va­tive leg­is­la­tors — wrote let­ters ask­ing for a no-con­fi­dence bal­lot.

The re­sult was an­nounced to loud cheers from law­mak­ers gath­ered in the wood-pan­elled room where they had voted. Un­der party rules, May can­not be chal­lenged again for a year.

May had ear­lier vowed to fight for the lead­er­ship of her party and the coun­try “with every­thing I’ve got,” and spent the day holed up in the House of Com­mons try­ing to win over enough law­mak­ers to se­cure vic­tory.

“A change of lead­er­ship in the Con­ser­va­tive Party now will put our coun­try’s fu­ture at risk,” May said in a de­fi­ant state­ment out­side 10 Down­ing Street.

She said that oust­ing her and a vote on her re­place­ment — a process that could take weeks — could re­sult in Brexit be­ing de­layed or even halted. The prime min­is­ter, who spent Tues­day tour­ing Eu­ro­pean Union cap­i­tals to ap­peal for changes to sweeten her di­vorce deal for re­luc­tant U.K. law­mak­ers, has un­til Jan. 21 to hold a vote on the agree­ment in Par­lia­ment.

In a bid to win over wa­ver­ing law­mak­ers, May in­di­cated she would step down be­fore the next elec­tion, due in 2022.

She has not said what she will do if, as many ex­pect, there is an early elec­tion trig­gered by Bri­tain’s Brexit cri­sis.

The lead­er­ship chal­lenge marked a vi­o­lent erup­tion of the Con­ser­va­tive Party’s decades-long di­vide over Europe and throws Bri­tain’s al­ready rocky path out of the EU, which it is due to leave on March 29, into fur­ther chaos. It comes days af­ter May post­poned a vote to ap­prove the di­vorce deal to avoid all-butcer­tain de­feat.

Many sup­port­ers of Brexit say May’s deal, a com­pro­mise that re­tains close eco­nomic ties with the EU, fails to de­liver on the clean break with the bloc that they want.

Op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers ex­pressed as­ton­ish­ment and out­rage at the Con­ser­va­tive civil war erupt­ing in the mid­dle of the fraught Brexit process.

“This govern­ment is a farce, the Tory party is in chaos, the prime min­is­ter is a dis­grace,” Scot­tish Na­tional Party leader Ian Black­ford said dur­ing a pug­na­cious Prime Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions ses­sion in the House of Com­mons.

British busi­ness fig­ures had ex­pressed alarm at the prospect of even more po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty.

“At one of the most piv­otal mo­ments for the U.K. econ­omy in decades, it is un­ac­cept­able that West­min­ster politi­cians have cho­sen to fo­cus on them­selves, rather than on the needs of the coun­try,” said Adam Mar­shall, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the British Cham­bers of Com­merce.

Theresa May

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