May survives leadership change but Brexit success will likely decide fate

May survives leadership change but Brexit success will likely decide fate

By Luke Vargas   
Published
British Prime Minister Theresa May (left) meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on December 11, 2018 in an effort to bolster an unpopular draft Brexit agreement. Courtesy: 10 Downing Street
British Prime Minister Theresa May (left) meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday in an effort to bolster an unpopular draft Brexit agreement. (Courtesy: 10 Downing Street)

Although May's tenure as Prime Minister did not end on Wednesday, she faces an uphill battle selling wary lawmakers on her Brexit deal.

NEW YORK – British Prime Minister Theresa May weathered a political insurrection on Wednesday, surviving a no-confidence vote initiated by members of her own Conservative Party by a 200-117 margin.

“This has been a long and challenging day, but at the end of it I’m pleased to have received the backing of my colleagues in tonight’s ballot,“ May told reporters outside her residence at 10 Downing Street after the vote.

“Whilst I’m grateful for that support, a significant number of colleagues did cast a vote against me and I have listened to what they said,” she added.

According to Conservative Party rules, May can not face another no-confidence vote for one year, but that’s little solace as she attempts to sell a wary British parliament on her Brexit “divorce” bill before the U.K.’s break with the E.U. is formalized on March 29.

Righting the Brexit ship will be a daunting challenge. May faced widespread criticism this week for scrapping an anticipated Tuesday vote on her Brexit agreement, telling members of the House of Commons that she would instead return to E.U. leaders to craft a better deal before seeking parliamentary approval next month.

But meetings with top E.U. officials and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday afternoon showed little willingness among May’s European counterparts to renegotiate the already-approved Brexit deal.

That led May to set her sights Wednesday on “legal and political assurances” from the E.U. that a messy Brexit would not lead to the imposition of a “hard border” between Ireland and the British Northern Ireland. Such an outcome would violate the Good Friday Agreement that resolved the Northern Ireland peace process in the late 1980’s.

Commentators were quick to label May a “lame duck” prime minister after today’s vote.

If the 117 detractors within her own party join with her opponents in the House of Commons in rejecting her Brexit agreement, her job could well be on the line again, and with even less time to shepherd through an orderly Brexit by March.

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