Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during the regular scheduled Prime Minister’s Questions inside the House of Commons in London, Wednesday Dec. 12, 2018. May has confirmed there will be a vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party, later Wednesday, with the result expected to be announced soon after. (Mark Duffy/UK Parliament via AP)

UK Prime Minister Theresa May wins party no-confidence vote, but troubles remain

May won the vote of 317 Conservative legislators with a 200-117 tally

British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a brush with political mortality Wednesday, winning a no-confidence vote by Conservative lawmakers that would have ended her leadership of party and country.

May won the vote of 317 Conservative legislators with a 200-117 tally that reflected the discontent within the party over her handling of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Despite the victory, Brexit remains her government’s biggest problem. May is heading to Brussels to seek changed to her divorce deal from the European Union in order to make it more palatable to Parliament.

The balloting came after May’s Conservative opponents, who circled the weakened prime minister for weeks hoping to spark a no-confidence vote, finally got the numbers they needed to call one.

The result was announced to loud cheers from lawmakers gathered in the wood-panelled room where they had voted. Under party rules, May cannot be challenged again for a year.

May had earlier vowed to fight for the leadership of her party and the country “with everything I’ve got,” and spent the day holed up in the House of Commons trying to win over enough lawmakers to secure victory.

“A change of leadership in the Conservative Party now will put our country’s future at risk,” May said in a defiant statement outside 10 Downing St.

She said that ousting her and a vote on her replacement — a process that could take weeks — could result in Brexit being delayed or even halted. May, who spent Tuesday touring European Union capitals to appeal for changes to sweeten her divorce deal for reluctant U.K. lawmakers, has until Jan. 21 to hold a vote on the agreement in Parliament, a timetable that could be scuttled if she is replaced.

In a bid to win over wavering lawmakers, May indicated she would step down before the next election, due in 2022.

Solicitor-General Robert Buckland said May told lawmakers at a meeting that “it is not her intention to lead the party in the 2022 general election.”

READ MORE: UK’s May lobbies EU leaders in fight to save Brexit deal

Another Tory legislator, Nick Boles, tweeted: “She was unambiguous. She will not be leading the Conservative Party into the next election.”

May has not said what she will do if, as many expect, there is an early election triggered by Britain’s Brexit crisis.

The leadership challenge marked a violent eruption of the Conservative Party’s decades-long divide over Europe and throws Britain’s already rocky path out of the EU, which it is due to leave on March 29, into further chaos. It comes days after May postponed a vote to approve the divorce deal to avoid all-but-certain defeat.

The threat to May has been building as pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers grew increasingly frustrated with the prime minister’s handling of Brexit.

Many supporters of Brexit say May’s deal, a compromise that retains close economic ties with the EU, fails to deliver on the clean break with the bloc that they want.

Former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson accused May of acting like a “supplicant” in dealings with the EU.

“She’s not the person to see Brexit through,” he said.

Opposition lawmakers expressed astonishment and outrage at the Conservative civil war erupting in the middle of the fraught Brexit process.

“This government is a farce, the Tory party is in chaos, the prime minister is a disgrace,” Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford said during a pugnacious Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons.

British business figures had expressed alarm at the prospect of even more political uncertainty.

“At one of the most pivotal moments for the U.K. economy in decades, it is unacceptable that Westminster politicians have chosen to focus on themselves, rather than on the needs of the country,” said Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.

Graham Brady, who heads a committee overseeing Conservative leadership contests, announced early Wednesday that he had received letters from at least 48 lawmakers asking for a vote. That’s the 15 per cent of Conservative legislators needed to spark a leadership challenge under party rules.

May cancelled a Wednesday trip to Dublin to meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar so she could stay in London and battle for lawmakers’ support.

But before it, Cabinet colleagues rallied to May’s support. Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted that a leadership contest, with Brexit little more than three months away, “will be seen as self-indulgent and wrong.”

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “I think it’s vital for the country that she wins tonight.”

He said that if May lost, “I don’t think we will be leaving the European Union on the 29th of March.”

EU leaders tried to stay out of the fray. There was no change in plans for May to address them about Brexit at a summit on Brussels on Thursday.

The European Parliament’s Brexit point man, Guy Verhofstadt, could not contain a note of annoyance, tweeting: “Once again, the fate of EU-U.K. relations, the prosperity of businesses & citizens’ rights are consumed by an internal Conservative party catfight over Europe.”

Associated Press writers Danica Kirka and Gregory Katz in London contributed.

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RBSS students decorate a parking stall at the school as part of the Paint the Parking Lot project. (Facebook)
2021 Robert Bateman grads ‘Paint the Parking Lot’

RBSS students decorate Abbotsford school’s parking lot for a good cause

The Mennonite Heritage Museum on Clearbrook Road in Abbotsford.
Mennonite Historical Society in Abbotsford seeks input for storytelling project

Digital project asks for stories about living during COVID-19’s ‘changing times’

The city is considering easing the requirements for neighbourhoods to get traffic calming devices like raised crosswalks installed on their local roads.
PHOTO: City of Abbotsford agenda package
City may make it easier for Abbotsford residents to get speed humps on local roads

City staff suggests easing criteria for roads to qualify for traffic-calming measures

The HOME Society, currently located at 31581 South Fraser Way in Abbotsford, is moving locations after 25 years.
HOME Society in Abbotsford to move locations after 25 years

Move being done to accommodate growth, says executive director

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers and COVID-19 contact tracers must stop, Chilliwack soccer club says

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Sex offender who viewed underage girls as slaves has prohibitions cut from 20 to 10 years

Appeal court reviewed the case of Kyler Bryan David Williams, 29

Ranil Prasad saw this poster near Surrey Central SkyTrain station on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. He said it expressed “some specific reference to white replacement theory.” (Photo: Ranil Prasad/@run_neil/Twitter)
Surrey man urges public to watch out for ‘white replacement theory’ posters

Ranil Prasad said he saw the messaging at a Surrey SkyTrain station

The B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch has issued a decision about the actions of an elementary school teacher in Langley. (Langley Advance Times files)
Langley elementary teacher suspended for grabbing, shoving, yelling at kids

Roxann Rojas will lose her legal authority to teach for two weeks from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2020

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Lawrence Nadessan, 44, was last seen on Oct. 24 at 11:30 p.m. in Maple Ridge.
Maple Ridge man missing since Saturday is extremely out of character, family says

Cameras saw him leaving home, not dressed for the weather

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Most Read