Theresa May to face vote of no confidence from Tory MPs
UK Prime Minister Theresa May will face a vote of no confidence in her leadership later on Wednesday.
Conservative MPs will vote between 18:00 GMT and 20:00 GMT.
The challenge to May’s position comes after the required 48 letters calling for a contest were delivered.
May, who has been prime minister since shortly after the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016, has faced criticism in her party for the Brexit plan she has negotiated.
The Prime Minister is expected to make a statement in Downing Street at 08:30 GMT.
It is not yet known how quickly the result of the secret ballot will be announced, but May needs to get a majority in her favour to win it.
If that happens she cannot be challenged for at least another year.
If May does not win the vote there would then be a Conservative leadership contest in which she could not stand.
There is also an option that even if May won – but not overwhelmingly – she may decide to stand down as party leader.
Because the Conservative Party is the largest party in the House of Commons, whoever is leader of the party would be expected to be prime minister.
If May is ousted as Conservative leader later she would be expected to stay on as a caretaker prime minister until a new leader is selected by the party, a process that could take six weeks.
If there are multiple candidates, Conservative MPs hold a series of votes to choose two to go forward to a vote of party members.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of backbench Tories, who is overseeing the vote, said: “We are looking at the leadership of the party and clearly the prime minister remains until there is a successor.”
Justice Secretary David Gauke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he would not expect a new leader to be in place until late January or February – meaning they would have to ask the EU for more time to negotiate Brexit.
“If she loses tonight whoever is prime minister will have to delay Article 50. I cannot see how we can possibly leave on 29 March.”
The BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said a delay to Brexit was “a vital part of the case the prime minister’s supporters will be making” as she faces the confidence vote.
Ministers have been tweeting their support for the prime minister – but Laura Kuenssberg said this was not necessarily a sign that they would back her in the vote.
Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner said the Conservative Party was “putting the resolution of their own divisions ahead of the interests of the country”. (BBC)