PM survives leadership challenge – but only after agreeing to quit by next election

Prime Minister Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street last night after surviving the no-confidence vote
Picture by Steve Parsons/PA

CONSERVATIVE leader Theresa May dramatically survived a confidence vote last night after telling her MPs she will not lead the party into the next general election.

The secret ballot was triggered by backbenchers after the prime minister deferred putting her EU withdrawal agreement before the House of Commons to avert almost certain defeat.

Many of her own MPs are opposed to the deal, which includes a backstop guarantee to maintain an open Irish border that is strongly opposed by the DUP.

Mrs May won the support of 200 of her MPs in the confidence vote, but a sizeable minority of 117 voted against - leaving her in a significantly weakened position.

Speaking outside Downing Street, she said would now be "seeking legal and political assurances" from EU leaders on MPs' concerns in an effort to get her deal through Westminster.

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DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party, was still concerned about the backstop plan, but he said they would not support a no-confidence motion in Parliament at this stage.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, who met Mrs May shortly before the confidence vote, insisted that "tinkering around the edges" would not be enough to win her party's support.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker spoke by telephone last night and said the withdrawal agreement "cannot be reopened".

An Irish government spokesman said "both agreed that the withdrawal agreement is a balanced compromise and the best outcome available".

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"While they agreed to work to provide reassurance to the UK, the agreement cannot be reopened or contradicted."

Mrs May made a last-minute appeal for support at an emotional meeting of backbench MPs before yesterday's vote.

She revealed she would not lead the party into the next scheduled election in 2022 but said she wants to remain to deliver Brexit.

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