Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to win a vote of no confidence triggered by angry Brexit supporters in her Conservative Party on Wednesday, but said she would step down as leader before the next election in four years time.
Less than four months before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29, Britain’s exit is in chaos with options ranging from a potentially disorderly no-deal departure to another referendum that could reverse it.
May said she would fight for her job with everything she had. But at a closed meeting with Conservative lawmakers before they were due to decide her fate, she announced she would not take the party into the next election due in 2022, two lawmakers present told reporters.
“She said that she did not intend to lead us into the 2022 election,” lawmaker Alec Shelbrooke said, adding “her opening remarks were, ‘I am not going to hold a snap election’.”
Lawmakers said she told them she recognized that the party did not want her to lead them into the next election, a gesture that could help her win over some wavering MPs on Wednesday evening.
May could be toppled if a simple majority of 317 Conservative MPs (members of parliament) vote against her, though a large rebellion could also leave her fatally weakened. At least 189 indicated public support for her and one bookmaker had the odds she would win at 89 percent.
A bitter division over Europe in the Conservatives helped bring about the downfall of all three previous Conservative premiers – David Cameron, John Major and Margaret Thatcher.
May, 62, who voted to remain in the EU at a 2016 referendum, told opponents of her EU withdrawal deal – struck after two years of negotiations – that if they toppled her, then Brexit would be delayed or stopped.
“A change of leadership in the Conservative Party now would put our country’s future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it,” she said.
“I stand ready to finish the job.”
May said a new leader would not have time to renegotiate Brexit and secure parliamentary approval by the end of March, meaning the Article 50 withdrawal notice would have to be extended or rescinded.
The Conservative lawmakers will cast their votes in the confidence ballot from 1800 GMT in Committee Room 14 at the House of Commons. An announcement is due at 2100. (Reuters)