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'Kicking the can down the road': Theresa May wins confidence vote from Tory MPs

The British Prime Minister said today has been “a long and challenging day”.

British Prime Minister Theresa May delivering a speech outside 10 Downing Street in London after the vote.
British Prime Minister Theresa May delivering a speech outside 10 Downing Street in London after the vote.
Image: Matt Dunham/AP/Press Association Images

Updated Dec 12th 2018, 11:08 PM

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has survived a confidence motion in her leadership.

The result of the vote was as follows: 200 in favour and 117 against. 

May needed to secure the votes of 159 MPs to survive (half of the total number of 317 Conservative MPs). 

The outcome of the vote was expected as more than 170 Tory MPs earlier today indicted they would back their leader. 

The chairman of the Conservative Party’s backbench 1922 Committee Graham Brady confirmed this morning that at least 48 Tory MPs, the necessary threshold, had written to him calling for a vote on the motion.

May is expected to step down before a general election. She reportedly wants to oversee the Brexit deal being agreed before she resigns.

May has signalled she will step down before 2022 – when the next general election is due to take place, but an election is likely to happen before then.

The confidence motion comes two days after May announced the deferral of a House of Commons vote on the draft Withdrawal Agreement struck between Britain and the European Union. 

‘A long and challenging day’

Speaking after the vote, the prime minister said today has been “a long and challenging day”. She welcomed the result but acknowledged that a significant number of her MPs voted against her, saying she has listened to their concerns.

May said she intends to deliver on Brexit and will tomorrow travel to Brussels to seek “legal and political assurances that will assuage the concerns that Members of Parliament have” in relation to the backstop element of the Withdrawal Agreement.

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,” she stated. 

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, a vocal critic of May, said the result of the vote means the party has “just kicked the can down the road”. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg, another May critic, said he accepts the result of the vote but told BBC News the prime minister “ought to go and see the Queen urgently and resign” because she “cannot get her business through the House of Commons”.

“On Monday the prime minister stood up and said she was going to lose so heavily that she wasn’t even going to present the vote,” he added. 

However, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond defended May. “Now is the time to focus on the future. Her deal means we will honour the referendum,” he said. 

‘Vote makes no difference’ 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the result of tonight’s vote “makes no difference to the lives of our people”.

“The prime minister has lost her majority in parliament, her government is in chaos and she is unable to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the country and puts jobs and the economy first.

That’s why she pulled the vote on her botched Brexit deal this week and is trying to avoid bringing it back to parliament. It’s clear that she has not been able to negotiate the necessary changes in Europe.

“She must now bring her dismal deal back to the House of Commons next week so parliament can take back control.”

Corbyn added that the Labour Party is “ready to govern”. 

Backstop 

On Monday, May postponed the Brexit vote so that she could seek additional assurances from European leaders on the Irish backstop.

May told the House of Commons the current agreement “would be rejected by a significant margin” but stated: “I’m in absolutely no doubt that this deal is the right one.”

The backstop aims to avoid a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland and could see the North stay aligned to some EU rules.

Many politicians have raised concerns about the backstop – including Conservative MPs and members of Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionist Party, which is propping up May’s minority government.

The DUP believes the backstop threatens the United Kingdom and could lead to a trade border in the Irish Sea.

In a statement released tonight, the Irish government confirmed that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, spoke by phone this evening.

“Both agreed that the Withdrawal Agreement is a balanced compromise and the best outcome available,” a spokesperson said. 

While they agreed to work to provide reassurance to the UK, the Agreement cannot be reopened or contradicted.

A two-day European Council meeting will begin in Brussels tomorrow. 

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Órla Ryan

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