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UK PM May wins party vote of confidence in her leadership

2018-12-12 22:43
Prime Minister Theresa May clung on by a thread, after surviving a leadership challenge fomented by the chaos of Brexit. Rebels from her own party triggered a confidence vote on Wednesday, as frustration at May's divorce deal with the EU reached critical mass. The vote on Wednesday night had a 50 percent threshold. In total, 117 out of 317 lawmakers from the conservative party voted to kick her out in the secret ballot. Those 117 rebel votes are a foretaste of the trouble May could have in squeezing crucial Brexit legislation through lawmaking chambers, where she has a majority of 13, propped up by a small party from Northern Ireland. Despite the damage to her authority, May has insisted she will not resign. She acknowledged that a "significant number" of colleagues had voted against her. Speaking after the results of the vote May said, "We now need to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people and building a better future for this country." According to party rules, May cannot face another confidence vote for a year. For two years, May has struggled to hold together a party and a parliament driven apart by differences on Brexit, as she sought to hash out a deal with the EU. The no-confidence vote was triggered after May yanked a crucial vote away from lawmakers that could have set the nation down the path to a second referendum and a reversal of Brexit, or pushed it over the cliff into the "no deal" Brexit scenario that has been spooking the markets. When they voted 52-48 to leave the EU in June 2016, the British people sparked divorce talks but left the UK wedded to the EU while the terms of the settlement were negotiated. That divorce settlement was wrapped up in November, and was due to be put to the British parliament. May had intended the vote as a binary choice: her negotiated deal, or no deal. But lawmakers crowbarred in a third option to the vote, opening a confusing web of possibilities, including that of a second referendum and the possibility of overturning Brexit. Rebels in her party were ranged to shoot down the deal, saying it would make the UK a "vassal state" to the EU. When May finally pulled the vote on Monday, just one day before it was due, those rebels turned their sights on her leadership, sparking a confidence vote within the party. A 'Vassal State' of the EU EU leaders have shut the door on renegotiation, saying they were willing only to offer political assurances. Many Brexit-supporting lawmakers can’t stomach the terms aimed to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland—the final sticking point in negotiations. They claim it will make the UK a “vassal state” of the EU. If no bespoke deal is agreed upon, the EU and UK default to World Trade Organization trade rules on March 29, 2019. That no-deal Brexit is widely seen as the worst-case economic scenario and has spooked markets in recent months. Political winds have been shifting behind a campaign for a second referendum, along with a change in public attitude over the last few months. Just 38 percent of people think that Britain was right to leave the EU in the latest survey, compared to 49 percent who think it was wrong. Earlier this week, an EU court ruled that the UK can reverse Brexit without the agreement of the EU member states, lighting the constitutional path for British lawmakers who want a second referendum. Lighting the Path to a Second Referendum The ruling allows the UK to put the firing pin back in the Brexit grenade before it explodes on March 29, without losing its current bespoke arrangement with the EU. The pound has risen and fallen with the rollercoaster of Brexit negotiations over the last few months, with markets nervous of the prospect of a "no deal" Brexit, looking for elusive certainty in a febrile political climate. May, 62, has helmed the UK government since July 2016, taking the conservative leadership mantle from David Cameron after he resigned on the day that the Brexit referendum results were announced. As she tried to chart a course for Brexit, May was con