Beleaguered leader Theresa May vows to contest ballot triggered by fellow Conservative Party MPs.
London, United Kingdom – Parliamentarians in British Prime Minister Theresa May‘s ruling Conservative Party have triggered a confidence vote in her leadership as the UK’s bid to depart the European Union descends into domestic political chaos.
Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative’s parliamentary 1922 committee, said on Wednesday morning that a required threshold of 48 demands for the vote had been reached.
The ballot will be held between 18:00-20:00 GMT in a committee room of the UK parliament’s lower chamber House of Commons, he added. A result is expected to be announced shortly after.
May must win the support of more than 50 percent of all 315 Conservative MPs to survive the vote. If she loses, she will be forced to resign as party leader and will likely set out a date by which she will stand down as prime minister.
She has pledged to “contest the vote with everything I’ve got”, adding that any new prime minister would need to scrap or extend Article 50 – the exit clause in the EU’s constitution – “delaying or even stopping Brexit”.
The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29 next year, two years after it triggered Article 50 and kick-started negotiations with European leaders over a divorce deal.
“A change of leadership in the Conservative Party now would put our future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it,” May said in a statement on Wednesday.
May, who has been prime minister since shortly after the UK opted to leave the EU during a divisive 2016 referendum, has faced widespread criticism from across the political spectrum over her proposed divorce deal from the bloc.
At the heart of the ongoing contention is the plan’s “backstop” proposal, a safety net provision which guarantees no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the event post-Brexit trade negotiations between the UK and the EU prove unsuccessful.
The clause proposes that the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland, will remain in a customs union with the EU “unless and until” the bloc agrees there is no prospect of a return to a hard border.
But critics in the UK parliament argue that the measure could tie Britain into the EU’s orbit indefinitely.
On Tuesday, she undertook a whistle-stop tour of several European cities aimed at seeking “further assurances” from EU leaders on the backstop plan after pulling a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal a day before, acknowledging it would have been rejected by the UK’s lower chamber House of Commons.
The move sent the pound plunging against the dollar and the euro as fears of a no-deal Brexit spooked markets.
EU leaders have warned there is no room for negotiation on the withdrawal agreement, brokered after months of back-and-forth discussions between Brussels and London.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament’s lead Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said May’s decision to delay the parliamentary vote and return to Brussels demonstrated Brexit had become a “mess”.
“My two messages: we’ll never let down Ireland; it’s out of the question to renegotiate the backstop & if you are looking for a closer future relationship to avoid the backstop, this will be no problem w/ us,” Verhofstadt said in a tweet.
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