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'I will contest this with everything I've got', says defiant Theresa May after Brexiteers trigger vote of no confidence

PM cancels Dublin trip ahead of leadership vote this evening

Theresa May has spoken out after Tory rebels reached the threshold required to trigger a vote of no confidence in her leadership of the party.

Speaking to the media outside Downing Street on Wednesday morning, the Prime Minister said she would contest the leadership challenge being taken against her with "everything I have got".

The Prime Minister used the speech to highlight the work which has taken place to date in the Brexit process, and the potential pitfalls of changing the Conservative leader at such a crucial stage.

Confirming a scheduled trip to Dublin on Wednesday afternoon had been cancelled due to the vote, the Prime Minister said: "A change of leadership in the Conservative party now would put our country at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it.

"A new leader would not be in place by the 21st of January legal deadline, so a leadership election risks handing control of the Brexit negotiations to opposition MPs in parliament.

"The new leader would not have time to negotiate a new withdrawal agreement and get the legislation through parliament by the 29th of March. So one of their first acts would have to be extending or rescinding Article 50, delaying or even stopping Brexit when people want us to get on with it. "

The Prime Minister said having a leadership election would "not change the fundamentals of the negotiation or the parliamentary arithmetic" and that "tearing ourselves apart will only create more division just as we should be standing together to serve our country".

The speech also appeared to take a swipe at hardline Brexit elements in the party, saying the Conservatives "must not be a single-issue party".

"We are a party of the whole nation. Moderate, pragmatic, mainstream. Committed to reuniting our country and building a country that works for everyone," she said.

Ahead of the vote Theresa May faced questioning in the House of Commons as part of Prime Minister's Questions.

Hitting out at Theresa May for a lack of clarity on when the withdrawal deal would be put before the House, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "The Prime Minister's appalling behaviour needs to be held to account."

Earlier Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 backbench committee, released a statement confirming the threshold of 48 signatures – 15 per cent of the total number of Tory MPs – “has been exceeded”.

The announcement came after Brexiteer Tories, who had to date held back from submitting letters calling for a confidence vote, broke cover in anger at the shelving of the vote on the Brexit deal.

The contest will be staged between 6pm and 8pm on Wednesday evening, when all 315 Conservative MPs will vote on whether they believe Ms May should continue.

Mrs May requires 158 supporters to survive – after which there cannot be another contest for one year – although rejection by more than 100 Tory MPs could damage her fatally.

Members of Theresa May's Cabinet have come out to give their backing to the embattled Prime Minister.

I will be voting for the Prime Minister, Theresa May in the leadership challenge.

Posted by Karen Bradley MP on Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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