Defiant May vows to get on with job and deliver Brexit
Theresa May has urged her party to "come together" after seeing off an attempt by rebel backbenchers to oust her as Conservative leader and Prime Minister.
She won a confidence vote of the 317 Conservative MPs by a margin of 200 to 117 in a secret ballot at Westminster. But she sowed the seeds for her eventual departure by telling Tory MPs that she would not lead the party into the next general election, expected in 2022.
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She immediately faced calls to resign from Brexit-backing MPs including Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said that she had lost the confidence of more than one-third of her MPs and a majority of backbenchers.
Speaking in Downing Street moments after the result was announced, Mrs May acknowledged that a "significant" number of her MPs had voted against her and said: "I have listened to what they said."
She pledged to seek "legal and political assurances" on the Brexit backstop to allay MPs' concerns about her withdrawal agreement when she attends a European Council summit in Brussels today.
Last night the BBC reported that EU leaders are considering making a commitment to continue negotiating a trade deal with the UK even if the Irish backstop comes into force.
It was reported that the move aims to reassure the House of Commons that the backstop will be a temporary measure - although it would not be legally binding.
It is believed this would be the start of a two-stage reassurance process starting immediately, with officials working on more drafts to be published in January.
Mrs May also said she and her administration had a "renewed mission", adding: "Following this ballot, we now need to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people and building a better future for this country."
But Mr Rees-Mogg said Mrs May should resign "as soon as the Queen has a moment in her diary to see her".
The chairman of the European Research Group of Tory eurosceptics told the BBC: "It's a terrible result for the Prime Minister."
With the "payroll vote" of ministers, parliamentary aides and trade envoys all likely to have backed Mrs May, a majority of the remaining 160-170 backbenchers voted no confidence in her, he said.
But other Brexiteers said they would end their efforts to unseat Mrs May.
Nadine Dorries said: "The PM has secured the confidence of the Parliamentary party tonight. It's not the way I voted, however I will fully respect the result."
It was Mrs May's decision to pull a vote on her deal in the face of what she acknowledged would have been a heavy defeat earlier this week which sparked a new wave of letters of no-confidence from Tories, triggering the challenge to her position.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the "dismal" deal should be put before MPs next week.
"The Prime Minister has lost her majority in Parliament, her Government is in chaos and she is unable to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the country and puts jobs and the economy first," Mr Corbyn said.
"It's clear that she has not been able to negotiate the necessary changes in Europe.
"She must now bring her dismal deal back to the House of Commons next week so Parliament can take back control."
Labour MPs described Mrs May as a "lame duck" due to her decision to pre-announce her departure.
Mrs May said after the result: "While delivering Brexit is important, we also need to focus on the other issues that people feel are vital to them and matter to them today. The issues that we came into politics to deal with, building a stronger economy, delivering first-class public services, building the homes that families need.
"We owe it to the people who put us here to put their priorities first. So here is our renewed mission: delivering the Brexit that people voted for, bringing the country back together and building a country that truly works for everyone."
Mrs May's victory in the vote means that another challenge cannot be mounted against her position as Tory leader for a year.
But she still faces the danger of a no-confidence motion in the Commons, which could bring her Government down if backed by more than half of all MPs.
Addressing MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee moments before the crucial vote, Mrs May said she accepted she could not fight the next election as leader.
Solicitor general Robert Buckland told reporters: "She said, 'In my heart I would like to lead the party into the next election' and then that was the introductory phrase to her indication that she would accept the fact that would not happen, that is not her intention."
And, according to MPs at the meeting, she also promised to find a "legally-binding solution" to ensure that the UK does not get permanently trapped in a backstop arrangement.