UK PM survives party confidence vote but Brexit deal still in doubt
Disarray within party will make passing her Brexit plan next month difficult
LONDON British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a confidence vote by the Conservative Party on Wednesday, but a mutiny by more than a third of her lawmakers indicated parliament was heading towards deadlock over Brexit.
While 200 Conservative lawmakers voted in support of Mrs May as leader, 117 dissented, indicating opposition not only from several dozen supporters of a hard Brexit but also from many more pragmatic lawmakers - and signalling that she was no nearer to passing her EU divorce agreement.
The vote is now scheduled for next month with Mrs May promising to hold it before the 27th. Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29.
Winning the confidence vote was not the robust affirmation she needed as she headed to Brussels yesterday to ask the other 27 EU leaders, who have made room for her at a summit, for clarification of the deal to reassure the doubters.
On Monday, Mrs May had cancelled a parliamentary vote on her deal, struck after two years of negotiations and designed to maintain close future ties with the bloc, after admitting it would be heavily defeated.
Speaking in Downing Street after the vote, Mrs May said she would listen to those who voted against her and seek legal assurances on the most controversial part of her deal - an insurance policy to prevent a hard border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
Many in her party fear these "backstop" measures could last indefinitely.
"A significant number of colleagues did cast a vote against me and I've listened to what they said," Mrs May said. "We now have to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people."
But EU leaders have lined up to say they have no intention of changing the agreement.
Diplomatic sources in Brussels said the draft of a document being prepared for Mrs May included only the possibility that the bloc would look into giving Britain more assurances over the Irish backstop, without offering any immediately.
Critics of the deal within Mrs May's party triggered the no-confidence vote hours after she returned from a whistle-stop tour to meet European leaders at the start of the week.
Supporters said the result showed the party should now get behind her. But the eurosceptics who see her deal as a betrayal of the 2016 referendum said she should now quit.
"It is a terrible result for the prime minister," Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of a hard Brexit faction, told BBC Television. - REUTERS