Britain’s Ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow, right, gestures to British Prime Minister Theresa May after she spoke with the media at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Britain’s Ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow, right, gestures to British Prime Minister Theresa May after she spoke with the media at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

UK leader seeks EU lifeline after surviving confidence vote

EU leaders gather for a two-day summit, beginning Thursday, which will center on the Brexit negotiations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was seeking a lifeline from European Union leaders Thursday after winning a no-confidence vote among her own Conservative lawmakers — but only after putting a time limit on her leadership.

May won the vote after promising lawmakers at a private meeting that she would quit before Britain’s next national election, scheduled for 2022.

Arriving in Brussels for an EU summit, May said that “in my heart I would love to be able to lead the Conservative Party into the next general election.”

“But I think it is right that the party feels that it would prefer to go into that election with a new leader,” May said. She didn’t specify a date for her departure.

May was meeting Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and European Council President Donald Tusk Thursday before the summit, where she will seek reassurances about the deal that she can use to win over a skeptical British Parliament, particularly pro-Brexit lawmakers whose loathing of the deal triggered Wednesday’s challenge to her leadership.

May caused an uproar in Parliament this week when she scrapped a planned vote on the deal at the last minute to avoid a heavy defeat. Two days later she won a leadership vote among 317 Conservative lawmakers by 200 votes to 117.

The victory gives May a reprieve — the party can’t challenge her again for a year. But the size of the rebellion underscores the unpopularity of her Brexit plan.

The EU is adamant there can be no substantive changes to the legally-binding withdrawal agreement but have suggested that there could be some “clarifications.”

“The deal itself is non-negotiable,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said as he arrived in Brussels. “So today is about clarification.”

Read more: UK Prime Minister Theresa May wins party no-confidence vote, but troubles remain

Read more: UK’s May lobbies EU leaders in fight to save Brexit deal

Rutte said EU leaders were willing to listen to May, who will address them before a summit dinner on Thursday.

May said her focus “is on ensuring that I can get those assurances that we need to get this deal over the line.”

“I don’t expect an immediate breakthrough, but what I do hope is that we can start work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary,” she said.

U.K. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC that there were signs of “positive” movement from the EU on the most intractable issue — a legal guarantee designed to prevent the re-implementation of physical border controls between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU.

The provision, known as the backstop, would keep the U.K. part of the EU customs union if the two sides couldn’t agree on another way to avoid a hard border.

Pro-Brexit lawmakers strongly oppose the backstop, because it keeps Britain bound to EU trade rules, and unable to leave without the bloc’s consent. Pro-EU politicians consider it an unwieldy and inferior alternative to staying in the bloc.

“There is movement, but the question is how do we ensure that that movement is sufficient for colleagues?” Barclay said. “But colleagues also need to focus on the fact that alternative deals also need a backstop.”

Re-opening the negotiations to address the border problem also raises the risk that May could lose concessions on other parts of the deal, Barclay said.

Among EU leaders there is sympathy for May’s predicament — but also exasperation at Britain’s political mess and little appetite to reopen the negotiations. On Thursday, the German parliament has approved a motion stating that the Brexit deal can’t be renegotiated, underlining the stance of the government and EU allies.

The largely symbolic motion states that “there will not be an agreement that is better and fairer for both sides. Any hope that a rejection of the agreement could lead to its renegotiation must prove to be illusory.”

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down to Britain’s departure from the bloc, which is due to take place on March 29 — deal or no deal. A parliamentary schedule published Thursday shows the Brexit deal won’t be debated or voted on before the House of Commons adjourns for a two-week Christmas break on Dec. 20.

The no-confidence vote has left lawmakers from the governing Conservative Party at loggerheads over the way ahead.

Prominent pro-Brexit legislator Jacob Rees-Mogg said that May should resign even though she won the vote.

He said Britain needed “somebody who can unite the country and the Conservative Party, and she has to ask herself is she realistically that person?”

Foreign Minister Alistair Burt said in a tweet that Conservative Brexiteers would never be satisfied.

“They never, ever stop. … After the apocalypse, all that will be left will be ants and Tory MPs complaining about Europe and their leader,” he wrote.

___

Danica Kirka reported from London. Geir Moulson in Berlin and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this story.

___

Jill Lawless And Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Salmon Arm Coun. Chad Eliason goes public with the information he went to Mexico over Christmas. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm councillor travels to Mexico over Christmas holiday

Politician says he regrets decision and didn’t consider the ramifications

Salmon Arm Recreation notified the public of a COVID-19 exposure at the Salmon Arm pool on Jan. 14. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)
COVID-19 exposure reported at Salmon Arm pool

Salmon Arm Recreation became aware of the virus exposure on Jan. 13.

Askew’s Foods’ Claire Askew is concerned that due to budgetary constraints, pedestrian-friendly elements presented in early artist renderings of the Ross Street underpass may be sacrificed when the project is built due to budget constraints. (City of Salmon Arm image)
Salmon Arm businesses stress need for pedestrian-friendly Ross Street underpass

Concerns raised that walkability elements of underpass will be sacrificed due to budget constraints

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

The Sicamous Fire Department received funds totalling over $100,000 to investigate firehall upgrades or replacement. (File Photo)
Sicamous abandons fire boat plan, money shifted to fire hall upgrades

Dock owners will no longer have to pay a $125 fee which was funding fire boat reserve

Brett Forsythe battles it out in a game of singles pickleball on ice at Okanagan Training Rink Thursday, Jan. 7 in support of the Vernon Food Bank. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Pickleball play hits the ice in Okanagan

Rivals battle it out in support of the food bank

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

Kelowna RCMP precinct. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna Mountie transferred, fined after pointing gun at another officer

Const. Kristine Roesler argued she handled the gun safely and did it in the spirit of ‘dark humour’

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

Carol Loiselle filed a discrimination and harassment complaint with the B.C. Humans Right Tribunal in 2018 after working at Windward Software Systems, Inc. in Penticton for eight years. (Google maps photo)
Penticton woman wins part of her B.C. Human Rights Tribunal case

Carol Loiselle alleges she faced years of discrimination, harassment at Windward Software Systems

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

A Vernon resident shared a near-miss photo of a tree fallen onto her backyard shed in Vernon's East Hill, where it came to rest just above the roof of her home. (Kristine Erlendson photo)
Windstorm introduces large tree to Vernon family’s shed

The East Hill family home was nearly hit by the fallen fir tree Thursday morning

Several road closures were in effect Jan. 13 due to downed trees, but meanwhile many residents are hoping Lake Country will invest in fixing damaged roads in 2021. (District of Lake Country photo)
Lake Country trims tax increase back to 3.25 per cent

Proposed hike now down slightly from 3.49, discussions continue

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Most Read