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UK prime minister Theresa May won a confidence vote, but the nation’s future is cloudier than ever

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons.
Reuters/Parliament TV
Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons.
By Natasha Frost, Adam Rasmi
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

British prime minister Theresa May decisively won a vote of no-confidence brought by her own party today. The embattled leader, who has been managing the almost impossible task of seeing through Brexit, secured 200 votes, with 117 against her. She needed at least 159 votes from Conservative MPs.

May’s win means she will be able to stay on as Conservative party leader for at least another year without the risk of another leadership challenge. She conceded to colleagues ahead of the vote that she would not be leading the party into the 2022 general election.

Despite the prime minister’s victory, the task ahead won’t be an easy one. She has promised that a parliamentary vote on her EU withdrawal agreement will take place before Jan. 21, and the math is not on her side. On Monday (Dec. 10), May delayed the long-awaited vote after it became evident that it would not succeed.

In the lead up to today’s no-confidence vote, the European Parliament said it would not renegotiate on the issue of the so-called “Irish backstop,” the hot-button Brexit issue that could keep the UK indefinitely in a customs union with the EU to avoid a hard border with Ireland. That issue—more than any other—has enraged Brexiteers and complicated negotiations. The Conservatives are in power thanks to an unruly alliance with the Northern Irish DUP, which is opposed to the backstop. Earlier this evening, DUP leader Arlene Foster called for “fundamental legal text changes” to the document, which the EU said was an impossibility.

Rumors abound that Tory Euroskeptics may go “nuclear” in the wake of the vote, moving to a non-binding no confidence motion against May, with the help of Labour, the SNP, and the Liberal Democrats.

All of this adds to the chaos surrounding preparations for Brexit, which is set to take place on March 29. It means that a general election, a second referendum, or a no-deal scenario could be in store for the UK in the coming months.

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