UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership was teetering after a no-confidence vote, but she managed to survive it. She now heads to Brussels to hold last-minute talks with EU leaders at the EU Summit.

British Prime Minister Theresa May meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss Brexit, at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium December 11, 2018.
British Prime Minister Theresa May meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss Brexit, at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium December 11, 2018. (Reuters)

British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a political crisis over her Brexit deal winning a no-confidence vote by Conservative lawmakers that would have ended her leadership of the party and country. 

After her victory — 200 votes to 117 — she said she is "pleased to have received the backing of my colleagues" but most MPs remain unhappy with the current Brexit agreement which, according to her, needs revising. 

European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attends a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium November 12, 2018.
European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attends a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium November 12, 2018. (Reuters)

Why was there a no-confidence vote?

It was the forty-eight letters of no-confidence from May’s Conservative Party that triggered the secret ballot against her with her MPs disappointed over the direction that Brexit is heading. She vowed to contest it “with everything I’ve got.”

She told her party she will not lead a 2022 election and will not call for snap-elections before that, to remain focused on her goal to take Britain out of the European Union.

May first decided to delay the Brexit vote seeking new assurances from EU leaders and improving the deal making sure there is no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland who will remain in the EU after Britain exits the block. 

During her statement before the no-confidence vote, she said a new leader would not have time to go on with Brexit.

“A new leader wouldn't have time to re-negotiate a withdrawal agreement and get the legislation through Parliament by March 29, so one of their first acts would have to be extending or rescinding Article 50, delaying or even stopping Brexit when people want us to get on with it".

If she had lost the vote, The Conservatives would have to hold a leadership contest to appoint a new leader without an election and form a new government. 

An arrangement of British newspapers showing front page stories reporting the result of the Conservative Party confidence vote in the leadership of Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is photographed in London on December 13, 2018.
An arrangement of British newspapers showing front page stories reporting the result of the Conservative Party confidence vote in the leadership of Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is photographed in London on December 13, 2018. (AFP)

What does the vote mean for her?

Theresa May's won the no-confidence vote in her deeply divided party, but she's lost a significant number of colleagues who remain against her deal with the EU and want her to take a tougher stance with the block.

The UK prime minister is now moving on with her planned meeting with the EU Council in Brussels during a two-day EU Summit to fight for the deal.

Theresa May is "fighting day and night" to secure a Brexit agreement, aiming to make progress on the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop that, recognised as a concern on both sides, Brexit minister Stephen Barclay said during that summit. 

After the vote, May will remain in power for another 12 months, and her leadership cannot be challenged, but it is uncertain what her plans are besides not running for office in the 2022 election.

Her victory does not secure a better deal or fix the issues with Brexit that has plunged the country into political uncertainty. 

Pro-Brexit demonstrators wear tape accross their mouths and hold placards outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, December 11, 2018.
Pro-Brexit demonstrators wear tape accross their mouths and hold placards outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, December 11, 2018. (Reuters)

What is the problem with the deal?

A large part of her party views the Brexit deal with anger. They believe the UK is caving in to the EU when all they want is to be independent.

Most of the issues are related to trade and security.

Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland is a major factor as both Irish sides want to keep it open, but that seems impossible if the UK leaves the European Union, unless Britain complies with the bloc’s rules even after the exit.

The same applies to UK’s trade that will have to join EU's single market which means the country will be forced to also maintain the free movement of people.

Europe has been clear about the deal. 

“No deal or no Brexit at all,” EU Council President Donald Tusk said reassuring Theresa May that there is no room for negotiation on the table.

The UK leader could do nothing but agree with the EU’s terms considering all the foreign businesses located in the UK which could end up leaving.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) and European Union Council President Donald Tusk during the extraordinary EU leaders summit to finalise and formalise the Brexit agreement in Brussels, Belgium November 25, 2018.
British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) and European Union Council President Donald Tusk during the extraordinary EU leaders summit to finalise and formalise the Brexit agreement in Brussels, Belgium November 25, 2018. (Reuters)

What’s next

The Brexit deal May has reached still needs approval in the House of Commons, but the prime minister can delay the vote further.

Another option is to revoke article 50 and unilaterally stop the Brexit process, a ruling that came from the European Court of Justice itself. But the leader has, for now, ruled out such a scenario.

The prime minister has said that stopping the Brexit process is a betrayal of the voters who chose to leave the EU through a referendum that would take place after March 29.

Triggering a second referendum is not an option for her.