British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence motion by her own, Conservative Party MPs, losing the support of about a third of her colleagues.
May won the backing of 200 Conservative MPs – with 117 voting to oust her – but only after she conceded she would step down before the 2022 election.
As The Guardian said in an editorial, “The result conveys no depth of loyalty beyond a desultory demand to get on with Brexit. Mrs May’s orders are to settle that matter, then go.”
“While Conservatives of all stripes have been frustrated by Mrs May, the most destructive animosity comes from Eurosceptic ideologues who refuse to take responsibility for positions they advocate. That sect has traduced decent, pragmatic Tory traditions and obstructed the path to rational compromise. … they see Brexit not as a practical exercise but as fulfilment of a nationalistic fantasy,” said The Guardian said.
After winning the confidence vote, May said she would get on with the job of pulling Britain out of the European Union. Speaking in Downing Street, the British PM said, “This has been a long and challenging day but at the end of it I am pleased to have received the backing of my colleagues in tonight’s ballot. Whilst I am grateful for that support, a significant number of colleagues did cast a vote against me and I have listened to what they said. 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, 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.”
“For my part, I have heard what the House of Commons said about the Northern Ireland backstop and when I go to the European Council tomorrow I will be seeking legal and political assurances that will assuage the concerns that members of Parliament have on that issue. But while delivering Brexit is important, we also need to focus on the other issues that people feel are vital to them, that matter to them day-to-day, the issues that we came into politics to deal with. Building a stronger economy, delivering first-class public services, building the homes that families need. We owe it to people who put us here to put their priorities first. So here is our renewed mission: delivering the Brexit that people voted for, bringing the country back together, and building the country that truly works for everyone.”
Leading Brexit rebel Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of at least 48 Tory MPs who triggered the vote by writing a letter of no confidence in May, described it as a “terrible result”. “She ought to go and see the queen and resign urgently,” he told the BBC.
Rees-Mogg and other Eurosceptics hate the divorce deal May agreed with the EU last month, which they fear risks tying Britain to the bloc for years after Brexit on March 29.
The confidence vote followed her decision on Monday to postpone a planned vote in the House of Commons on the text, because she feared a crushing defeat.
She has promised to hold that vote by January 21, when she may yet still lose.
May is now immune to further Conservative confidence votes for a year, but if defeated on her Brexit deal, her government could still face a confidence vote in parliament.
Simon Hix, of the London School of Economics, said Wednesday’s result was “enough to cling on, but 117 against her means the Commons arithmetic on Brexit is now even tougher”.
With Britain due to leave the EU on March 29, Wednesday’s vote has suddenly opened up possibilities including a potentially disorderly exit with no deal or even another referendum on the country’s membership.
The delays to the Brexit deal have prompted both the EU and Britain to step up preparations for the potentially disastrous scenario where there is no agreement at all.