Theresa May has won the backing of her party to stay on as prime minister – but more than a third of Conservative MPs voted against her, underscoring the uphill battle she faces in getting her Brexit deal through parliament.
Tory MPs rejected a no-confidence motion in the embattled prime minister’s leadership by 200 votes to 117 on Wednesday night, after a swift contest that exposed the bitter split in her party over Brexit.
May emerged from 10 Downing Street after the result to say her party had a renewed mission of delivering the Brexit that people voted for, and to urge MPs from all parties to cooperate to deliver Brexit in the national interest. But Brexiters hailed the 117 votes cast against her as a clear indication that her Brexit deal is deeply unpopular on her own side of the House of Commons. However the Prime Minister will now not be challenged for another year.
May will fly to Brussels on Thursday to appeal to her fellow EU leaders to offer Britain what she told MPs must be a legally binding commitment that the Irish backstop will be temporary.
In response to the conservative vote:
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said,
This vote was a chaotic detour that needs to be put to good use. Politicians must finally stop the endless infighting of the past 30 months and come together to secure a workable Brexit deal. Companies and the country have had enough of chaos. Uncertainty is throttling firms and threatening jobs – not in the future but right now. Firms are desperate for clarity and need to know for certain a no deal Brexit will not happen. Until they do, damage to investment, jobs and future growth will continue. This must mark a turning point, a chance to restore confidence in politics and our economy. Businesses across the UK will be counting on politicians to seize it, and despair if they do not.
Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
With news that the Prime Minister remains in place, business communities will hope that these political games can finally be put to bed. Westminster must now focus all its energy on urgently giving businesses clarity on the future and avoiding a messy or disorderly Brexit. We are just over 100 days to go until the UK leaves the EU, and firms are still in the dark as to what trading conditions they will face. Neither the country nor businesses are prepared for a no deal Brexit, so parliamentarians on all sides must redouble efforts to ensure communities don’t face that scenario by default. Many businesses are holding back on investment and hiring, with some enacting contingency plans, for example by moving operations to continental Europe, to give themselves more certainty. It is time for Westminster to urgently come together to provide clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the EU so that firms have the answers they need. There is no time to waste.