British Prime Minister Theresa May seems to have overcome an internal escalation from her own Conservatives to have her removed, but her supporters are confident she is safe in the leadership, for now. Ms May is under pressure over the so-called Chequers proposal, which her opponents say binds the United Kingdom too tightly to European Union rules and regulations following Brexit.
Conservative MPs from the European Research Group (ERG), who are opposed to the current Brexit plan, met to discuss how to force Ms May out of the job, according to local media reports, and also have the 48 MPs needed to bring on a no-confidence motion in her leadership.
But if they proceed they would need 158 of the 315 Tory MPs to vote in favor of the motion to oust the PM, a number that it is understood they don't have, and if they fail they'd be banned from bringing any further motion against Ms May for one year.
After reports of the revolt emerged in the media on Tuesday evening (local time), some members of the ERG came out Wednesday with softer language, saying they supported Ms May but not her Brexit plan.
She is a fantastically dutiful Prime Minister and she has my support, I just want her to change just one item of policy, Conservative MP Jacob Rees Mogg declared.
David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, who quit in protest of the Chequers plan, also backed his leader. I have made plain from when I resigned and thereafter that I think we've got a very good PM and, like Jacob, I disagree with her on one issue, Mr Davis said.
Mrs May's main leadership rival Boris Johnson — who quit as foreign secretary over the Chequers plan— is continuing to quietly campaign despite revelations of extra-marital affairs and a pending divorce from his wife of 25 years. After controversially comparing the Brexit blueprint to a suicide vest, the outspoken former mayor of London has now declared the Chequers deal to be worse than Britain staying in the European Union.
But Mr Johnson, and those in favor of chucking Chequers are yet to reveal any alternative blueprint, and it's not clear they have the support to derail the current one.
In Brussels the EU is confident a deal can get done before November. In a State of the European Union address on Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU respected Britain's decision to leave — but regretted it.
But we also ask the British Government to understand that someone who leaves the union cannot be in the same privileged position as a member state, he warned.
Ms May's spokesman said the Prime Minister would fight any attempt to oust her and would push ahead with the only credible plan for Brexit. She will face off against her opponents at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham at the end of the month, an event that is shaping up as critical moment for the PM to keep her party together less than six months out from Brexit.