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Pound rallies despite Brexit fears as May faces confidence vote within hours

Dec 12 2018 18:16
Tim Ross, Kitty Donaldson and Robert Hutton

Theresa May is set to face a vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party, as the embattled UK prime minister warned the rebels who want her out that they will be putting Brexit at risk.

Tory members of Parliament will vote on Wednesday evening on whether they have confidence in May.

If she loses, a leadership contest is launched. There are 317 MPs eligible to vote and she needs a simple majority of them to back her in order to stay on.

The pound rose as much as 1.4 percent, showing confidence from traders that she would win.

According to a BBC tally, 158 have said they will be backing May tonight. A Bloomberg count says at least 100 have expressed their support publicly.

However, it’s a secret ballot so what people say in public isn’t always what they wind up doing in private.

May said a leadership challenge would delay Brexit, or even risk it being cancelled altogether. She put in a strong performance during the question-and-answer session in Parliament, coming out swinging against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn with Tory MPs kicking the benches in front of them in a show of noisy support.

The vote threatens to eat into the time available to get a Brexit deal through Parliament before exit day on March 29. If May goes, the agreement she spent 18 months negotiating with Brussels will probably be discarded.

It increases the chances of a pro-Brexit Tory taking over and pursuing a more dramatic split from the bloc than the one May was pursuing. If a hardliner takes over, then the risk of a no-deal split - the scenario most feared by business - also rises.

A new leader could ask for an extension to the negotiating timetable, but it would require approval from all 27 EU leaders. There’s no clear majority for any kind of Brexit in parliament.

theresa may  |  brexit
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