Prime Minister Theresa May arrives in Brussels today seeking new guarantees over her Brexit withdrawal deal after surviving a Tory confidence vote in her leadership.
Last night’s vote was triggered by Mrs May’s decision to cancel Tuesday’s vote in Parliament on the agreement she had struck with the EU.
MPs voted 200-117 in favour of the Prime Minister – a majority of 63 per cent – and Tory rebels cannot mount another leadership challenge for 12 months.
Prior to the vote, she addressed a meeting of the party’s back bench 1922 committee and told MPs that she would step aside before the next election.
Mrs May’s priority now is to persuade EU leaders at the summit to give legally binding pledges on the Irish ‘backstop’ which seeks to avoid a hard border on the island.
Many of those in her own party who planned to vote against the deal cited the backstop as the main reason, claiming it ties the UK to EU rules indefinitely.
That would mean the UK would not be able to negotiate new trade deals independently of the EU, a key objective of Tory Brexiteers.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker insists there will be no renegotiation of the withdrawal deal with the UK, which is due to leave the bloc on March 29 next year.
That means her plan still faces an uphill struggle to get through a Commons vote due to be held by January 21, even if concessions are won at the European Council today.
She said after the confidence vote that she was determined to deliver the ‘Brexit people voted for’ and had noted the concerns of critics in her own party about her exit deal.
Mrs May will set out the problems she faces at home to leaders of the 27 EU states today and will then leave the meeting as they consider their response.
Prior to that, she will meet Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to discuss the issue, after cancelling talks in Dublin yesterday due to the confidence vote.
What they said
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said: “The government has a proposal that we can’t get through Parliament and we have to try and break that gridlock.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would be tabling a no confidence motion in the government when they felt there was a chance of winning it.
Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “I don’t think this vote really changes anything very much in terms of the arithmetic.”
Brexit-supporting former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “We cannot go on just with the idea that a fiddle here and a fiddle there is what the problem is.”
“They have got to say to the EU ‘we are not committed to this £39bn (Brexit divorce settlement) unless we get some resolution’.”
The leader of the hard core Brexiteers who tried to unseat Mrs May, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said the vote showed she had lost the support of her back benchers.
He added that it was a ‘terrible result’ for Mrs May and said she should ‘get on with leaving the EU’ or step down as leader.
But his fellow Tory MP Nicholas Soames said Brexiteers should get behind the Prime Minister as she attempted to solve their ‘grave concerns’ about the deal.