May-day vote on the British Prime Minister

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The mutiny at Westminster is over.

Just moments ago, embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly survived a no-confidence vote launched by hardline Brexiteers within her own party who are angry at her handling of the Brexit negotiations and the current deal she has in principle with the European Union. To many observers, the ruling Conservatives put party politics ahead of the national interest, and risked plunging the United Kingdom into greater uncertainty to advance their own political agendas.

To say that the U.K.’s departure from the EU has been a very messy divorce is an understatement.

Despite Prime Minister May’s victory this evening, there are still many hurdles to overcome before Britain’s break from the EU becomes a reality. But before we map out what comes next, here’s how we arrived at the latest crisis.

Today’s revolt comes less than two days after May delayed the Commons vote on her current Brexit agreement with Brussels that she had failed to sell to her own party. With May facing near certain defeat and humiliation thanks to dissent within Tory ranks, the vote was postponed in hopes she could reach a new, amended agreement with Brussels to satisfy those hardliners in her party.

Yet before she could that, a challenge was mounted to her leadership. Under Conservative Party rules, there is something called the 1922 committee. This committee is responsible for managing the interests of backbencher MPs, the ones who are not in official positions in government. In order to challenge May, the party requires 48 letters voicing their dissatisfaction with her leadership. That number was reached, thus forcing all 315 Tory MPs to cast their votes in secret on whether or not they wanted Theresa May to continue to lead.

As we mentioned in our last Brexit update (which you can read here), the charge against her leadership has been partially lead by outspoken Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who failed to mount a successful bid to topple her weeks ago. Smelling blood in the water after May pulled the plug on the Commons vote for her Brexit deal this week, the backbenchers pounced, leading to where we are today.

So just how close was it? The magic number for May to win was 158 votes in her favour. She received 200.

Her victory guarantees she will keep the keys to 10 Downing Street for at least another year thanks to party rules that prevent another leadership challenge from happening in that time. What is also certain is that she will not lead the Conservatives into the next general election. While that does provide some stability to who will be at the helm for seeing Brexit through, it does leave the prime minister bruised and battered, with very little support to lean on in the Commons from both sides of the house.  

Despite fending off attacks from all sides, May is scheduled to fly off to Brussels on Thursday to attempt to hammer out a tweaked agreement, and then once again try and sell MPs on both sides of the aisle that it’s a good deal for Britain.

Unfortunately for May, European leaders are growing increasingly frustrated at the UK’s failure to ratify this deal, and have made it clear that they do not want to re-open the current agreement. When this will all be resolved is anyone’s best guess, but no one can claim Brexit is boring, and Provident will of course be keeping a close eye on all future developments and how they impact Canadian business interests on both sides of the pond.