200/117: Theresa May again gains party confidence, vows to deliver Brexit

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Nation special report
LONDON:Prime Minister Theresa May survived Wednesday night in no-confidence move andwill not face such situation for one year. She did win the ballot of ConservativeMPs, on whether she should remain their party leader, by 200 votes to 117. Butin a last-minute pre-vote move, she offered a promise to her MPs that she wouldstep down before the next election.

Speaking in Downing Street after the vote, Mrs May vowed to deliver the Brexit “people voted for” but said she had heard the concerns of MPs who voted against her.

The result was announced to cheers by the chair of the backbench 1922Committee Sir Graham Brady after two hours counting the vote ofevery Tory MP – including two who were reinstated earlier in the day havingpreviously had the whip suspended.

The prime minister won the confidence vote with a majority of 83 – 63% of Conservative MPs backing her and 37% voting against her. Her supporters urged the party to move on but critics said losing the support of a third of MPs was “devastating”.

On her arrival in Brussels on Thursday, Theresa May said she will not lead the Conservative Party into the next general election. She said the party would prefer to “to go into that election with another leader”, as she arrived in Brussels for an EU summit.

The next scheduled general election is in 2022. Mrs May said: “I’ve said that in my heart I would love to be able to lead the Conservative Party into the next general election but I think it is right that the party feels that they would prefer to go into that election with another leader.”

A split was still clear in the Tory party after the result. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who led calls for the confidence vote, said losing the support of a third of her MPs was a “terrible result for the prime minister” and he urged her to resign.

But Nicholas Soames urged Brexiteers to “throw their weight” behind the PM as she sought to address the “grave concerns” many MPs had about aspects of the EU deal. DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party was also still concerned about the Irish backstop plan, telling BBC News: “I don’t think this vote really changes anything very much in terms of the arithmetic.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said, despite the “high drama” of Wednesday, “nothing has really changed”.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said it was now up to Mrs May to listen to her party and “push the EU… to resolve the backstop”.

Ms May also said she would come back from Brussels with a legally binding solution that would ensure the UK is not indefinitely tied into the backstop – the arrangement that comes into play if no trade deal is set by the end of the Brexit transition period.

Meanwhile, the EU’s draft statement has reiterated that the bloc prefers a new EU-UK deal to ever triggering the backstop and that it would try to swiftly conclude such an accord even if the emergency border fix kicks in. EU states were not in agreement on the text on Thursday morning and diplomats in Brussels expected it to change. They suggested the bloc may be readying more solid assurances for May in January with Brexit day now due on March 29. Several EU diplomats said Britain was seeking to terminate the backstop after three years.