British Prime Minister Theresa May Survives Confidence Vote

Leon NealGetty Images

British Prime Minister Theresa May has survived a no confidence ballot brought against her by members of her own Conservative Party. She won the vote among her own MPs by a margin of 200 votes to 117 according to BBC News.

Theresa May has been under increasing pressure from her own MPs, many of whom are deeply dissatisfied with the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement she has agreed upon with the European Union.

In 2016, the U.K. voted to leave the EU in a national referendum. After the result, then-Prime Minister David Cameron, who was also the leader of the Conservative Party, resigned as he had campaigned for Britain to stay.

Theresa May was elected as the new party leader and so also assumed the role of prime minister. She has taken on the responsibility for negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU and last month announced that an agreement over the terms of Brexit had been reached.

But the British parliamentary system requires any such deal to be supported by a majority of members of the British Parliament and this has always looked unlikely to happen.

Prime Minister may arrives back at 10 Downing Street in a car.
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 12: British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves parliament after the Confidence Vote on December 12, 2018 in London, England. Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, has received the necessary 48 letters (15% of the parliamentary party) from Conservative MP's that will trigger a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)Featured image credit: Leon NealGetty Images

Under the British political system, the prime minister is the leader of the political party with the most MPs. At the moment, this is the Conservative Party. But the Conservative Party have a mechanism to hold a confidence vote in their leader if more than 15 percent of its MPs express no confidence in her.

This is what happened tonight and she survived the ballot. But with 117 of her own voting against her, Theresa May will now have a hard job to unite her party and the rest of British Parliament behind her Brexit agreement.

If she had lost, she would have been forced to resign as prime minister and her replacement as leader of the Conservative Party would have assumed the post.

There are many areas of concern in the proposed EU withdrawal agreement, but the most troublesome one for Prime Minister May has been over the future status of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the U.K. which shares a land border with another EU state. Both sides want to avoid the need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland but coming to an agreement on how to do this without the U.K. staying in the EU’s single market has proven difficult.

The agreement that has been reached includes a backstop arrangement if the U.K. and the EU cannot agree a free trade deal by 2020. The problem for British MPs is that this would see Northern Ireland being subjected to different laws than the rest of the U.K., something they see as a threat to British sovereignty over what is a highly contentious part of the country.

Earlier this week, she stopped parliament voting on the agreement as it was apparent that they would vote against it.

She has tried to renegotiate the backstop agreement with the EU, but with no success so far.

So, while she may have survived this challenge to her leadership, she now has the unenviable task of trying to convince MPs to support her withdrawal plan. If she fails to do this, she could end up resigning in the next few weeks.