'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
I am backing @theresa_may tonight. Being PM most difficult job imaginable right now and the last thing the country needs is a damaging and long leadership contest. Brexit was never going to be easy but she is the best person to make sure we actually leave the EU on March 29— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) December 12, 2018
The Prime Minister has worked hard in the National interest since the day she took office and will have my full support in the vote tonight. Her deal means we leave the EU on time, whist protecting our jobs and our businesses.— Philip Hammond (@PhilipHammondUK) December 12, 2018
The PM has my full support. At this critical time we need to support and work with the PM to deliver on leaving the EU, & our domestic agenda - ambitious for improvements to people’s lives & to build on growth of wages & jobs.— Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddHR) December 12, 2018
The last thing our country needs right now is a Conservative Party leadership election. Will be seen as self-indulgent and wrong. PM has my full support and is best person to ensure we leave EU on 29 March— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) December 12, 2018
I am backing the Prime Minister 100% - and I urge every Conservative MP to do the same. She is battling hard for our country and no one is better placed to ensure we deliver on the British people’s decision to leave the EU.— Michael Gove (@michaelgove) December 12, 2018
Just about to appear on @BBCr4today. Theresa May will have my full support. Removing her would be self indulgent and irresponsible.— David Gauke (@DavidGauke) December 12, 2018
The Prime Minister has my full support. She works relentlessly hard for our country and is the best person to make sure we leave the EU on 29 March and continue to deliver our domestic agenda.— Gavin Williamson MP (@GavinWilliamson) December 12, 2018
Theresa May is the best person to lead both the @Conservatives and the Country. Her integrity, drive and focus is vital at this time— Julian Smith MP (@JulianSmithUK) December 12, 2018
I shall be supporting the Prime Minister this evening. This is no time for the self indulgent spasm of a leadership election. Nothing fundamental will be altered by it. This is a time to show loyalty and discipline in supporting the PM in discharging the duties of government.— Geoffrey Cox QC MP (@Geoffrey_Cox) December 12, 2018
Strongly support @theresa_may to continue as Leader of @Conservatives and Prime Minister. Now is not the time for this distraction and even more uncertainty. We need to get behind the Prime Minister in the best interests of our country.— James Brokenshire (@JBrokenshire) December 12, 2018
The Prime Minister has my full support, not least because she has always done what she firmly believes is in the national interest. Our country needs us all to fight for a good deal and prepare for a no deal senario. All eyes and hands should be on that task.— Penny Mordaunt MP (@PennyMordaunt) December 12, 2018
I will support the Prime Minister @theresa_may tonight. This is a totally inappropriate time to have a contest. The country expects us to provide stability not damaging division.— Dr Liam Fox MP (@LiamFox) December 12, 2018
@theresa_may has my full support. On the difficult & complex EU negotiations she has always put the national interest first.— David Lidington (@DLidington) December 12, 2018
Vital to support @theresa_may today. She is working hard in the interest of the U.K. to get a good Brexit deal and she has my full support.— Andrea Leadsom MP (@andrealeadsom) December 12, 2018
Let’s all get behind @Theresa_May to complete the job on brexit and keep on delivering on jobs & growth and tackling injustices. A leadership challenge does nothing to secure brexit, and is the last thing our country, or the party, needs at this critical time.— Damian Hinds (@DamianHinds) December 12, 2018
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