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Day after no-confidence vote, British Prime Minister Theresa May heads to Brussels

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to make a statement outside 10 Downing Street after winning the confidence vote in London on December 12, 2018.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to make a statement outside 10 Downing Street after winning the confidence vote in London on December 12, 2018.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Ms. May is facing criticism from the right and left of her party, who are united in their belief that the terms of the Brexit withdrawal agreement agreed with the EU aren’t in the nation’s best interests.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is heading to Brussels on Thursday to attend an European Union council meeting after Conservative MPs backed her by a majority of 83 in a secret ballot on Wednesday night. “Hard” Brexiteers triggered a no-confidence vote in her leadership but MPs voted 200 to 117 in favour of the Prime Minister, which will mean she cannot be challenged in another party no-confidence vote for the next year.

Ms. May has promised to use the Brussels meeting to garner legal and political promises to “assuage concerns” of her parliamentary colleagues.

It is far from a clear-cut victory for the Prime Minister.

In a meeting earlier in the evening in an attempt to persuade more MPs to support her, she told colleagues she would not lead the party into the next general election, meaning the battle to become her successor will be well underway. The large number of MPs who voted against her also gives an indication of the challenge ahead of her, both when it comes to getting her controversial withdrawal deal through the House of Commons and further Brexit legislation beyond that. Her opponents noted after the result that while she had won the majority, if one considered MPs who were not part of the government and simply backbenchers, the majority had voted against her.

The party remains highly divided. While Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the right-wing European Research Group, and others urged her to stand down, others within the party vocally criticised them. “After the apocalypse all that will be left will be ants and Tory MPs complaining about Europe and their leader,” tweeted Alistair Burt, a foreign office minister.

While others may have voted with her and visibly support her leadership, the strength of the rebellion against her will also embolden sceptical voices who want her to extract further concessions from Europe. This includes members of her own cabinet.

She could also face a separate parliamentary motion of no-confidence, should the Labour Party — the official opposition — choose to trigger that voting process.

Labour's renewed call for new general election

The Labour has also renewed its call for a new general election. “After 40 years tearing itself apart over Europe, tonight’s vote shows the Tory party is finally and irrevocably split in two. It is incapable of agreeing a Brexit deal and unfit to govern,” said Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson after the vote.

Ahead of the vote, cabinet members such as Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, as well as former Prime Minister David Cameron took to Twitter to publicly highlight their support for the Prime Minister, even as members of the right-wing European Research Group of MPs such as Mr. Rees-Mogg flaunted their aspirations for a new leader. They believe a leader who would be willing to risk a no-deal Brexit is more likely to extract concessions from EU leaders.

Ms. May is facing criticism from the right and left of her party, who are united in their belief that the terms of the Brexit withdrawal agreement agreed with the EU aren’t in the nation’s best interests. Hard Brexiteers want her to renegotiate the backstop — or insurance — policy to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland which would (under the current deal) involve Northern Ireland entering the EU customs union with no unilateral exit option for the UK if the backstop kicks in.

Others want her to call a second referendum.

With Opposition parties also uniting in their opposition to the deal, the level of rebellion within the Conservative Party indicates the obstacles Ms. May is likely to continue to face.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 10:32:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/day-after-no-confidence-vote-british-pm-theresa-may-heads-to-brussels/article25733736.ece

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