MAY SURVIVES CONFIDENCE VOTE.
Prime minister agrees to not run in 2022
• 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.