Non means NON! Juncker tears up May’s ideas for Brexit concessions

Non means NON! Juncker tears up May’s ideas for backstop concessions and blasts the UK for ‘nebulous and imprecise’ demands as the EU twists the knife and steps up preparation for No Deal Brexit

  • EU humiliates Theresa May by refusing to agree ‘meaningful changes’ to her ailing Brexit deal with Brussels
  • Jean Claude Juncker said: ‘I would have thought it was up to the UK government to exactly what they want’
  • Donald Tusk compounded her misery by refusing to budge and saying her deal ‘is not open for renegotiation’
  • Her rescue mission came after she scraped through Tory vote of no confidence by a margin of 200 to 117 MPs 
  • She had hoped to wring more ‘legally binding’ concessions from EU leaders over the Irish border backstop  
  • Mrs May said to have used 10-minute pitch to bypass backstop by setting negotiation end date of late 2021    
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Theresa May faces another brutal humiliation at the hands of EU leaders today after they refused to save her Brexit deal – and ridiculed the UK’s negotiating strategy.

The Prime Minister is locked in more frantic negotiations with counterparts including Emmanuel Macron after her latest plea for ‘legally binding’ assurances over the Irish border backstop fell flat.

In a ten minute pitch at a summit dinner in Brussels last night, Mrs May begged the bloc’s 27 leaders to guarantee that a new trade deal is in place by 2021 – so the contentious arrangements to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland the Republic will never be triggered. 

Urging them to ‘hold nothing in reserve’ in helping rescue her deal, she highlighted her torrid political situation at home, including the Tory coup bid that narrowly failed to end her time in power this week.

‘I hope I have shown you can trust me to do what is right, not always what is easy, however difficult that might be for me politically,’ Mrs May said.

But after kicking the PM out so leaders could consider the situation in private, EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker emerged to complain that Britain’s position was ‘nebulous and imprecise’.

In an extraordinary press conference – and wearing a green tie in solidarity with Ireland – Mr Juncker said: ‘It is the UK leaving the EU. Our UK friends need to say what they want, instead of asking us to say what we want. I find it uncomfortable’.

He added: ‘We would like within a few weeks our UK friends to set out their expectations for us, because this debate is sometimes nebulous and imprecise’. 

Delivering a statement from the EU’s 27 national leaders, European Council President Donald Tusk warned the Withdrawal Agreement was ‘not open for renegotiation’ – and said they are stepping up preparations for a ‘no deal’ scenario come March. 

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    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker humiliated Theresa May last night as her plea for help on the Irish Backstop was dismissed as ‘nebulous and imprecise’


    European Council President Donald Tusk then twisted the knife by saying that the deal agreed earlier this year was ‘not up for renegotiation’


    Theresa May was effusively kissed and hugged by Jean-Claude Juncker as proceedings got under way in the Belgian capital yesterday only for him to blast her demands hours later 

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      Mrs May went to Brussels yesterday needing ‘meaningful changes’ to her Brexit deal and was kissed and hugged on arrival at the summit by leaders including Mr Juncker.

      But last night she was sent back to Britain empty-handed leading to Brexiteers and Labour again calling on her to resign.

      Labour claimed Mrs May had failed to achieve ‘meaningful changes’ to her Brexit deal from the European Union, .

      After Mrs May appealed to the 27 EU leaders for an olive branch to offer MPs who oppose the Northern Ireland backstop, shadow Brexit minister Sir Keir Starmer called for a meaningful vote on the deal before Christmas.


      The Telegraph’s Europe Editor Peter Foster showed how Mrs May’s plea for help toughened not softened the EU’s approach to negotiations

      He said: ‘It seems that the Prime Minister has failed in her bid to deliver meaningful changes to her Brexit deal.

      ‘We cannot go on like this. The Prime Minister should reinstate the vote on her deal next week and let Parliament take back control.’

      Her deal was struck last month but she has since gone back to Brussels for more assurances so that she can get it past her own MPs.

      Speaking in Brussels last night, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said the EU underlines that the backstop is an insurance policy to prevent a hard border in Ireland. 

      Tusk said: ‘Prime Minister May informed the leaders about the difficulties with ratifying the deal in London and asked for further assurances that would at least in her view unlock the ratification process in the House of Commons.

      He added that after a meeting of the EU27, they agreed to reaffirm the conclusions made in the previous gathering at the end of last month in which they ‘endorsed the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration’.  

      ‘The Union stands by this agreement and intends to proceed with its ratification. It is not open for renegotiation,’ Tusk concluded.

      Mrs May had been trying to secure a start date for the future relationship between the EU27 rather than nailing down an end date for the backstop, sources told Sky News. Mrs May said that there should not be a an expiry date on the backstop but a target date for the free trade agreement that she wants to negotiate.

      She said: ‘We have to change the perception that the backstop could be a trap from which the UK could not escape. Until we do the deal – our deal – is at risk.’

      Mrs May said a package of assurances could ‘change the dynamic’ in Parliament.

      ‘There is a majority in my Parliament who want to leave with a deal so with the right assurances this deal can be passed,’ she said. ‘Indeed it is the only deal capable of getting through my Parliament.

      ‘I am in no doubt that the best result for all of us is to get the deal done in an orderly way. It is in none of our interests to allow an accidental no-deal and all the disruption that would bring.

      ‘Let’s work together intensively to get this deal over the line in the best interests of all our people.’




      Donald Tusk (left) and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker appeared in a joint press conference on Thursday evening


      Theresa May publicly conceded that although in her ‘heart’ she wants to fight on, her time in power is coming to an end as she arrived in Brussels for a crunch summit

      There was said to have been sympathy for Mrs May inside the leaders dinner after her ordeal yesterday, but sources inside the dinner said it was made clear that not much would be expected from today’s talks. 

      JUNCKER’S TIE WITH THE IRISH 

      Jean-Claude Juncker gave Theresa May a warm welcome in Brussels yesterday – but his outfit revealed his true colours.

      The EU Commission president wore a green tie for the Prime Minister’s speech on the Irish backstop. Sources confirmed that he chose it to ‘show solidarity with the people of Ireland’. 

      The Irish border has become the most toxic part of the Brexit deal unveiled by Mrs May last month. Opposition to the backstop forced her to pull a Commons vote on the plan earlier this week.

      Mrs May has now called on EU leaders to provide extra ‘legal and political assurances’ to make sure Britain cannot be trapped in the customs backstop indefinitely.

      The 27 leaders are expected to issue a statement tonight amid hopes they will offer ‘legal and political assurances’ Mrs May says she needed. 

      The PM went to Brussels insisting she needed help from the EU to get the negotiated divorce past fractious MPs – more than 100 of whom on her own side say they will not vote for it.  

      As the summit began, leaders including Angela Merkel and Holland’s Mark Rutte held out an olive branch by speaking of their ‘admiration’ for the PM as they gathered for a summit in Brussels with Brexit high on the agenda.  

      In a glimmer of hope for Mrs May, draft conclusions emphasised that the Irish border backstop is an ‘insurance policy’ and only intended to be ‘temporary’ if it comes into force.

      And former Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso appealed for EU leaders to help Mrs May – warning a Brexit had to be concluded without ‘resentment’. 

      But as they arrived at the summit most of the EU27 stuck to a tough line by insisting that the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be reopened – despite Mrs May urging concessions that can help her get the package ‘over the line’. 

      Mrs Merkel said Mrs May’s victory in the confidence vote was ‘pleasing’, but added: ‘I do not see that this Withdrawal Agreement can be changed.’ 

      While acclaiming Mrs May in English as he spoke to reporters in Brussels today, Mr Rutte was less helpful when he addressed Dutch journalists in his own language.

      ‘If anyone in the Netherlands thinks Nexit is a good idea, look at England and see the enormous damage it does,’ he said. 

      Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz suggested another summit could be convened in January to try and sign off more assurances, but said it was hard to know what the EU should give to May because ‘not all the arguments of Brexit supporters are rational’.


      Dutch PM Mark Rutte fist-bumped other leaders as the summit in Brussels got under way today, with Theresa May (centre) seeking help from counterparts including Angela Merkel (second right) and Emmanuel Macron (right) 


      Mrs May was swiftly locked in conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch PM Mark Rutte after surviving the attempted coup and making it to Brussels 




      Mrs Merkel (pictured right) and Mr Macron both again played down the prospect of any changes to the legal Brexit text 


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        And Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite put it more bluntly. ‘Brexit Christmas wish: finally decide what you really want and Santa will deliver,’ she said on Twitter in posting a picture of a chocolate Christmas tree.

        May admits she will NOT get a new Brexit deal and reschedule showdown vote before Christmas 

        Theresa May abandoned hopes of holding a showdown vote on her Brexit deal before Christmas today.

        The Prime Minister played down the chances of an ‘immediate breakthrough’ in this week’s summit.

        The Commons vote on the Brexit deal was supposed to happen on Tuesday but was shelved after Mrs May accepted she would be defeated. 

        Arriving in Brussels for an EU summit, Mrs May acknowledged she needed fresh assurances from EU leaders regarding the operation of the Northern Ireland backstop if the agreement was to get through the Commons. 

        A Downing Street spokeswoman confirmed that it was the Government’s aim to hold the vote in the Commons ‘as soon as possible in January’. 

        Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who currently holds the rotating EU presidency, suggested there could be a special Brexit summit in January. 

        The idea is to agree ‘additional assurances’ which could be attached to the Political Declaration on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

        As she arrived at the summit, Mrs May publicly conceded for the first time that the Brexit crisis will cut short her stay in Downing Street, saying although in her ‘heart’ she wants to fight on, she will need to quit before the next general election.

        ‘I think it is right that the party feels that it would prefer to go into that election with a new leader,’ she said.  

        Mrs May has acknowledged she must get ‘legally binding’ concessions from the bloc in the wake of the extraordinary Tory coup attempt yesterday which saw more than a third of her own MPs vote against her. 

        But Mrs Merkel today again flatly dismissed the prospect of renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement, while the Finnish PM warned the best she can hope for is ‘political’ assurances. 

        ‘We can discuss whether there should be additional assurances, but here the 27 member states will act very much in common and make their interests very clear.

        ‘This is always in the spirit that we will have very, very good relations with the UK after it has departed from the European Union.’ 

        French president Emmanuel Macron said there could be a ‘political discussion’ but added ominously: ‘One cannot reopen a legal agreement.’  

        Mr Rutte was effusive in his praise of Mrs May’s ‘tenacity’. ‘I feel respect. She is an able leader. I admire her tenacity and resilience. She’s a great leader. And if you saw the Labour people laughing at her when she said ‘I listened’, I felt this was not very British,’ he said.

        ‘She stood there and kept her composure and won this fight within her party. I have the highest admiration for her.’

        Finnish PM Juha Sipila warned: ‘Legally binding will be a little bit difficult.

        ‘But we all want to help her first of all, and then our goal is that the new relationship will be before the backstop.

        ‘So I think, at the political level, we can (offer assurances). That’s our primary goal. And let’s see if we can find something from the legal side also, but it’s open still.’ 

        And the hopes of any imminent progress receded further today as Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom confirmed that the crunch Brexit vote in parliament will not happen before Christmas.

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          Mrs May met EU council president Donald Tusk (left) and Irish PM Leo Varadkar (right) at the summit in Brussels today

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            England legends Gary Lineker and Peter Shilton clash over Brexit 




            Gary Lineker called out his ‘hero’ Peter Shilton over Brexit last night when he praised Jacob Rees-Mogg

            Gary Lineker called out his ‘hero’ Peter Shilton over Brexit last night after the former England goalkeeper praised Jacob Rees-Mogg.

            The Match of the Day host, 58, also told former teammate Chris Waddle to ‘stick to football’ when he said it would be best if Theresa May left the EU with no deal.

            Last month Mr Lineker, an outspoken Remainer, appeared at a ‘People’s Vote’ rally calling for a second referendum and has said stopping ‘frightfully boring’ Theresa May’s Brexit is more important to him than football.

            As Mrs May survived her no confidence vote last night the former Spurs and Barcelona striker poured scorn on Peter Shilton’s praise for Tory Brexiteer Rees-Mogg.

            Mr Shilton, who played for Mr Lineker’s beloved Leicester City, tweeted: ‘Have been so impressed with @Jacob_Rees_Mogg in the last few days. He really knows what he is talking about and puts it across in a calm and calculated manner!’

            Gary Lineker responded to him and said: ‘What’s that old saying? You should never see a tweet from your heroes?’.  

            Mrs May also played down hopes of any shift soon, saying: ‘I don’t expect an immediate breakthrough, but what I do hope is that we can start to work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary.’  

            After scraping through a Conservative no-confidence vote last night, an exhausted-looking Mrs May was given an encouraging farewell by husband Philip as she set off from Downing Street. 

            She held talks with Irish PM Leo Varadkar and EU council president Donald Tusk this morning, as frantic efforts continue to find a breakthrough that can satisfy Parliament.

            Cabinet ministers have warned they will kill off her fledgling deal unless there are ‘legally binding’ guarantees that the UK cannot get stuck in the Irish border backstop. 

            The PM will lay out her problem to the heads of the 27 member states this evening, hoping that they can help. 

            But they have now decided to take her off the invite list for dinner. She will have to leave the room so they can privately discuss their approach to Brexit. 

            Yesterday she was forced to concede she will not lead the Tories into the 2022 general election in a bid to buy off a rebellion – but still suffered a bloody nose as 117 MPs joined the bid to get her out. 

            Philip cheered his wife on at PMQs yesterday, and the pair are understood to have toasted her political survival with a glass of wine and some crisps last night. 

            Former ally Iain Duncan-Smith, who voted against the PM last night, said today that Mrs May should tell EU leaders: ‘If you want a deal you’d better damn well step up to the plate’ and warn them Britain’s £39billion Brexit bill is ‘fully at risk’ unless they remove the backstop.

            The victory last night was far less emphatic than allies had hoped, and a clearly shaken Mrs May acknowledged in a speech outside No10 that ‘a significant number of colleagues cast their votes against me’.

            She said she would ‘listen’ and pursue a ‘renewed mission – delivering the Brexit that people voted for, bringing the country back together, and building a country that truly works for everyone’.


            Yesterday the Prime Minister was backed by Tory MPs by 200 to 117 in a confidence after conceding she will not lead the party into the 2022 general election. However the number of rebels to vote against her is far greater than expected and leaves her politically wounded




            Waving her off: Philip May waves off the Prime Minister this morning after she won a Party vote of no confidence last night. She is heading to Brussels for an EU summit where she will try and win more concessions on the Irish border backstop 


            The Prime Minister held talks with Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar before the EU summit formally kicked off today


            A Commons vote on the PM’s Brexit deal was pulled at the last moment this week to avoid a catastrophic defeat. 

            Trade Secretary Liam Fox put down a clear marker yesterday by warning it may never be put to a Parliamentary vote unless changes are made. 

            ‘It is very difficult to support the deal if we don’t get changes to the backstop,’ he said. ‘I am not even sure the Cabinet will agree for it to be put to the House of Commons.’

            He told the BBC: ‘If there is no movement on the backstop then it is very likely either one of two things happens. Either [we] remain in the EU without a referendum, which I think would be a democratic affront which brings a whole range of consequences, or, perhaps more likely, we have to up our preparations for no deal and leave the EU without an agreed deal.’

            In a sign of the simmering divisions, other ministers including Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark are urging an early vote on the package – and then if it is defeated a series of Commons votes on different options for how to move forward. 

            Mrs May’s fate is now effectively in the hands of EU leaders who have repeatedly said they will not re-open negotiations.  

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              Theresa May put a brave face on her situation  as she reacted to the outcome of the Tory no-confidence ballot


              There were cheers as 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady announced the result in the Commons last night

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                Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz insisted there would only be a ‘better interpretation’ of the Brexit deal. 

                ‘I think there will be some readiness from our side to maybe find some better explanation about the future relationship,’ he said.

                ‘There is also some room to have a better interpretation of what we agreed on. But there will be no new deal about the Withdrawal Agreement.’ 

                The Prime Minister will restart negotiations with European leaders after winning the intense 15-hour fight to keep her own job, with a vote of no-confidence announced early yesterday and concluded by 9pm. 

                Standing on Downing Street last night, Mrs May pleaded to be allowed to ‘get on with the job’ of delivering Brexit – by rivals both within and outside of her party.

                How the Brexiteer ‘lemmings’ sparked a coup – and how it collapsed  

                Theresa May has been dogged by rumours of a coup by angry Brexiteers since the snap election surrendered the Tory majority – but the plot exploded when her deal emerged.

                November 13: A draft deal is struck in Brussels and begins to leak. Brexiteers react with horror at the state of the Irish border backstop.

                November 14: May secures agreement for the deal after a marathon and fractious Cabinet meeting.

                November 15: Dominic Raab and Esther McVey resign from Cabinet over the deal, branding it a surrender to Brussels.

                Jacob Rees-Mogg goes public with a move against May, calling on Tory MPs to submit letters of No Confidence.

                November 22: EU officials sign off the deal after resolving last minute hitches. 

                Brexiteer plotters insist they still want to remove the PM but admit they do not have the necessary 48 letters.

                November 25: At a special EU summit, the divorce deal is rubber stamped.

                December 4: May opens a five day debate on her Brexit deal ahead of a planned vote. Opposition is mounting rapidly, with dozens of Tory MPs pledged against it. 

                Tory MPs rebel to help Labour hold the Government in contempt of Parliament amid three humiliating Commons defeats for May in 63 minutes.

                December 10: May calls off the vote, admitting there is ‘significant’ opposition to the deal.

                December 11: Rumours spread rapidly that letters of no confidence are finally mounting up as MPs lose patience with May’s insistence she can salvage her deal.

                December 12: A vote of no confidence is finally called  – and is held within hours as May vows to fight on.

                Support for the Brexiteers falls flat, leaving May safe from party procedure for a year and free to keep shoring up her deal despite rage in her party.  

                But her hopes of harmony may be short-lived. Jeremy Corbyn insisted her ‘dismal’ deal be put to Parliament next week, while Labour MPs branded her a ‘lame duck’ after she vowed she would not lead the Tories into the next general election. 

                Rebel chief Jacob Rees-Mogg said because a third of her MPs hadn’t backed her: ‘She ought to go and see the Queen urgently and resign’ – Chancellor Philip Hammond hit back and called Mr Rees-Mogg and his supporters ‘extremists’.

                Instead, the EU is only likely to offer ‘clarifications’ that the EU does not want to use the backstop and it should be a last resort. 

                However, it may also include a pledge to consider ways of giving further assurances that, while not binding, carry more legal weight.

                In an astonishing day of political drama, Conservative MPs voted by 200 to 117 for her to stay on as Tory leader and Prime Minister. 

                Despite months of sabre-rattling by her hardline opponents, and deadlock over Brexit, almost two thirds of Tory MPs backed her.

                Cabinet ministers immediately demanded that her opponents give her the breathing space and support to secure an ‘orderly exit’ from the 

                EU. But Mrs May’s victory, which means she cannot be challenged again for at least 12 months, came at a price. 

                She was forced to promise she will quit before the next general election, scheduled for 2022.

                Eurosceptics and Labour said the numbers were ‘shocking’ and a ‘disaster’, while Cabinet ministers queued up to talk up the positives. 

                Jeremy Hunt yesterday said her ‘stamina, resilience and decency’ had ‘again won the day’, while Treasury minister Liz Truss said it was ‘convincing’. 

                And the scale of yesterday’s revolt – more than a third of her MPs want her gone – will raise questions about how long she can stay in charge.  

                Draft conclusions to be considered by EU leaders say: ‘The union stands ready to examine whether any further assurance can be provided.’

                However, it adds: ‘Such assurance will not change or contradict the Withdrawal Agreement.’

                One paragraph in the draft summit conclusions that could help Mrs May says the backstop were to be triggered ‘it would apply only temporarily unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement’. 

                The text adds: ‘In such a case, the union would use its best endeavours to negotiate a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop, so that it would only be in place for a short period and only as long as strictly necessary.’

                Mrs May is seeking assurances that Britain could never become ‘trapped’ indefinitely in the customs backstop, which will come into effect if no trade deal is struck to avoid a border emerging between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

                Some MPs fear the agreement could lead to Britain being tied to the bloc’s customs regime indefinitely – opposition that led to Mrs May shelving a scheduled Commons vote on the deal.

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                  Tory MPs wait for the result of last night’s confidence vote that Theresa May won but 117 of her own party voted against her


                  Earlier Mrs May left some politicians in tears as she told the gathering in a Commons committee room (pictured) that she would bow out gracefully once that task is complete 


                  Some MPs tweeted images of the ballot papers as the no confidence vote took place at Westminster last night where 200 people declared they did have confidence in the PM including Sarah Wollaston, who pictured her own vote

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                    EU sources appeared to rule out the idea of any further assurances being legally binding. One senior diplomat said yesterday: ‘The Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration are set. We don’t think a legal instrument is possible here.’

                    Another senior official added: ‘What is not feasible is renegotiations of the Withdrawal Agreement of the deal which was reached. This is not on the table and whatever reassurance will be given they cannot contradict the deal which was agreed on November 25. I don’t know what’s possible, but what I know is impossible is to renegotiate the deal – that’s impossible.’

                    Another senior EU source suggested a solution could be to beef-up language in the political declaration on the future relationship – the part of the deal that is not legally binding.

                    EU Council chief Donald Tusk wrote to EU leaders yesterday pledging to listen to Mrs May before making any ‘conclusions’.


                    Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg said last night still believed ‘someone else’ should try to secure a good Brexit and called on the PM to resign

                    Mrs May welcomed the result on Tuesday night while acknowledging that ‘a significant number of colleagues did cast their votes against me’.

                    She said she would now pursue a ‘renewed mission – delivering the Brexit that people voted for, bringing the country back together, and building a country that truly works for everyone’. She said the situation called for ‘politicians on all sides coming together and acting in the national interest’ – an apparent plea for help from Labour.

                    Speaking in Downing Street afterwards, a clearly shaken Mrs May admitted that she needed to get an improved deal from the EU with ‘legally binding’ assurances on the Irish border backstop.

                    ‘I am pleased to have received the backing of my colleagues in tonight’s ballot,’ she said yesterday evening.

                    ‘Whilst I’m grateful for that support, significant number of colleagues did cast their vote against me and I have listened to what they have said.

                    ‘We now need to get on with the job of delivering for the British people and building a better future for this country.’ 

                    Mrs May added: ‘That must start here in Westminster with politicians on all sides coming together to act in the national interest.

                    ‘I have heard what the House of Commons said about the Northern Ireland backstop. I go to the European Council tomorrow and I will be seeking legal and political guarantees that will assuage those concerns.’ 

                    Transport Secretary Chris Grayling described the result as a ‘strong vote of support’ for the PM.

                    Justice Secretary David Gauke said: ‘This was a very comfortable victory for Theresa May. Removing her would have been self-indulgent and irresponsible. I’m glad that a large majority agreed.’

                    But Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the hardline European Research Group which forced the vote, said the PM had suffered a ‘terrible result’ in which the ‘overwhelming majority of her backbenchers have voted against her’.

                    ‘Of course I accept this result, but Theresa May must realise that under all constitutional norms she ought to go and see the Queen urgently and resign,’ he said.

                    Mrs May appealed to Tory MPs not to sack her at an emotionally-charged Commons meeting just minutes before the ballot opened last night.

                    She pledged she would not call a snap election, and said the party’s greatest duty was to prevent Jeremy Corbyn entering Downing Street.

                    One source at the meeting said she told MPs: ‘In my heart I would have loved to have led us into the next election, but I realise that we will need a new leader with new objectives for the 2022 election.’

                    Some ministers were said to be close to tears as the PM acknowledged that some in her own party want her gone rather than risk a repeat of last year’s disastrous election campaign.  

                    The vote came after Tory shop steward Sir Graham Brady announced that at least 48 MPs had written letters of no confidence in Mrs May, sparking a vote under the party’s leadership rules.

                    After the announcement yesterday morning, Mrs May pledged to fight the coup attempt with ‘everything I’ve got’.

                    She ducked questions about the exact date of her departure.

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                      Environment Secretary Michael Gove had urged Tory MPs not to trigger the no confidence vote in the Prime Minister while Home Secretary Sajid Javid called the challenge ‘self indulgent’ (both pictured last night)

                      Teflon Theresa and her ever-present ‘rock’: PM’s husband’s unwavering support has seen her through the storm again 

                      Philip May waved his beloved wife – and Prime Minister – goodbye this morning as she embarked on the latest grueling test – another EU summit where she will plead for key changes to the Brexit deal.

                      Mr May, 61, has carved himself out a successful career in the City of London as an investment manager.

                      But it his role as Theresa May’s husband, confidante and ‘rock’ that is perhaps his biggest contribution to the country.

                      Mr May’s devotion to his wife was on display once again yesterday as she was forced to face her Tory rebels and a baying Labour opposition at PMQs.

                      Mrs May, 62, was fighting for her political life as Tory MPs had called a vote of confidence which could have seen her unceremoniously toppled by the end of the day.

                      As she entered the Commons Chamber, where plotting Tory rebels were sat slumped on the green benches to her back, while Labour MPs jeered and barracked her straight ahead, she glanced up and saw her husband staring loving down at her.


                      Theresa May and Philip (pictured together in 1980 – the year they married) have been sweethearts since  their days as undergraduates and bonded over their shared love of cricket


                      Theresa May (pictured with Philip in 1977) has told how her husband is her ‘rock’ who has supported her throughout the many political upheavals she has faced

                      He allowed himself a brief smile as the couple locked eyes, and Mrs May went on to defiantly defend herself in the onslaught of attacks hurled her way.

                      The couple have been together for around 40 years – meeting as undergraduates at Oxford University and marrying in 1980s.

                      They were introduced at a student disco – known as a ‘bop’ – by mutual friend Benazir Bhutto – later prime minister of Pakistan. 

                      And while neither Philip nor Theresa particularly enjoy or seek the spotlight, they have sweetly told how it was love at first sight for them in a rare joint TV appearance.

                      Speaking to the BBC’s One Show during the election campaign last year, they gave the country insight into their relationship – and how its strength keeps Mrs May going during her darkest moments.

                      Asked about how their romance blossomed, Mr May said: ‘It was love at first sight, absolutely.’

                      And asked for his first impressions of the woman who would become his wife, he said: ‘What a lovely girl!’ And he gallantly added: ‘And she still is.

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                        Who could replace Theresa May? As the PM admits she will have to quit soon, these are some of the leading contenders to take over

                        Theresa May won her Tory confidence vote after promising not to lead the party into the 2022 general election.

                        These are some of the leading contenders to replace her:

                        Boris Johnson – 7/2

                        How did they vote on Brexit?

                        Led the Vote Leave campaign alongside Michael Gove.

                        What is their view now?

                        Hard line Brexiteer demanding a clean break from Brussels. The former foreign secretary is violently opposed to Theresa May’s Chequers plan and a leading voice demanding a Canada-style trade deal.

                        What are their chances?

                        Mr Johnson’s biggest challenge could be navigating the Tory leadership rules. 

                        He may be confident of winning a run-off among Tory members but must first be selected as one of the top two candidates by Conservative MPs. 


                        Now rated as favourite by the bookies, Boris Johnson’s (pictured leaving parliament last night) biggest challenge will be navigating the Tory leadership rules

                        Dominic Raab – 9/2

                        How did they vote on Brexit?

                        Leave, with a second tier role campaigning for Vote Leave.

                        What is their view now?

                        Mr Raab was installed as Brexit Secretary to deliver the Chequers plan but sensationally resigned last month saying the deal was not good enough.

                        What are their chances?

                        His resignation from the Cabinet put rocket boosters under Mr Raab’s chances, fuelling his popularity among the hardline Brexiteers. May struggle to overcome bigger beasts and better known figures. 


                        Newly installed as Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab (pictured on Tuesday) is trying to negotiate Theresa May’s Brexit deal

                        Sajid Javid – 5/1

                        How did they vote on Brexit?

                        Remain but kept a low profile in the referendum.

                        What is their view now?

                        Pro delivering Brexit and sceptical of the soft Brexit options.

                        What are their chances?

                        Probably the leading candidate from inside the Cabinet after his dramatic promotion to Home Secretary. Mr Javid has set himself apart from Mrs May on a series of policies, notably immigration.


                        Sajid Javid (pictured leaving the Houses of Parliament this evening) is probably the leading candidate from inside the Cabinet after his dramatic promotion to Home Secretary

                        Michael Gove – 7/1

                        How did they vote on Brexit?

                        Leave 

                        What is their view now? 

                        He has said Theresa May’s Chequers blueprint for Brexit is the ‘right one for now’. But he recently suggested a future prime minister could alter the UK-EU relationship if they desired.

                        What are their chances? 

                        He came third in the first round of voting in 2016, trailing behind ultimate winner Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom. Mr Gove has said it is ‘extremely unlikely’ that he would stand again. But he popular in the party and is seen as an ideas man and a reformer by many, and he could change his mind if Theresa May is shown the door.


                        Michael Gove appeared to rule himself out of the race in recent days, but he ran last time and is popular among many in the party. He is pictured outside the Houses of Parliament today

                        Jeremy Hunt – 7/1

                        How did they vote on Brexit?

                        Remain.

                        What is their view now?

                        The Foreign Secretary claims the EU Commission’s ‘arrogance’ has made him a Brexiteer.

                        What are their chances?

                        Another top contender inside Cabinet, Mr Hunt’s stock rose during his record-breaking stint at the Department of Health and won a major promotion to the Foreign Office after Mr Johnson’s resignation. Widely seen as a safe pair of hands which could be an advantage if the contest comes suddenly. 


                        Jeremy Hunt’s stock rose during his record-breaking stint at the Department of Health and won a major promotion to the Foreign Office after Mr Johnson’s resignation

                        David Davis – 10/1

                        How did they vote on Brexit?

                        Leave.

                        What is their view now?

                        Leave and a supporter of scrapping Mrs May’s plan and pursuing a Canada-style trade deal with the EU.

                        What are their chances?

                        The favoured choice of many hard Brexiteers. Seen as a safer pair of hands than Mr Johnson and across the detail of the current negotiation after two years as Brexit Secretary. He could be promoted a caretaker to see through Brexit before standing down.

                        Unlikely to be the choice of Remain supporters inside the Tory Party – and has been rejected by the Tory membership before, in the 2005 race against David Cameron. 


                        David Davis (pictured outside the Houses of Parliament today) is seen as a safer pair of hands than Mr Johnson and across the detail of the current negotiation after two years as Brexit Secretary

                        Amber Rudd – 14/1

                        How did they vote on Brexit?

                        Remain. Represented Britain Stronger in Europe in the TV debates.

                        What is their view now?

                        Strongly remain and supportive of a second referendum – particularly given a choice between that and no deal.

                        What are their chances?

                        Popular among Conservative MPs as the voice of Cameron-style Toryism, Ms Rudd is still seen as a contender despite resigning amid the Windrush scandal – and she was boosted further by her return to Cabinet as Work and Pensions Secretary on Friday night. She is badly hampered by having a tiny majority in her Hastings constituency and would not be able to unite the Tory party in a sudden contest over the Brexit negotiation. 


                        Popular among Conservative MPs as the voice of Cameron-style Toryism, Amber Rudd (pictured leaving parliament this evening) is still seen as a contender despite resigning amid the Windrush scandal

                        Jacob Rees-Mogg – 14/1

                        How did they vote on Brexit? 

                        Leave.

                        What is their view now? 

                        Leave and recently branded Theresa May’s Brexit U-turn a ‘humiliation’ which has left her deal ‘defeated’. 

                        What are their chances? 

                        As chair of the European Research Group (ERG) bloc of Tory Eurosceptics he has been urging MPs to replace Mrs May for weeks. 


                        Pro-Brexit supporter, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, walks through members of the media and anit-brexit demonstrators as he walks near to the Houses of Parliament in London yesterday

                        Penny Mordaunt – 14/1

                        How did they vote on Brexit?

                        Leave.

                        What is their view now?

                        Leave and subject of persistent rumour she could be the next to quit Cabinet over Mrs May’s Brexit deal.

                        What are their chances?

                        Possible dark horse in the contest, Ms Mordaunt is not well known to the public but is seen as a contender in Westminster. Known to harbour deep concerns about Mrs May’s Brexit deal, but has stopped short of resigning from Cabinet. 


                        Possible dark horse in the contest, Penny Mordaunt (pictured in Downing Street) is not well known to the public but is seen as a contender in Westminster

                        Andrea Leadsom – 16/1 

                        How did they vote on Brexit?

                        Leave.

                        What is their view now?

                        Ms Leadsom said in late November that she was backing the withdrawal agreement struck with Brussels because it ‘delivered’ on the referendum result. 

                        What are their chances? 

                        Leader of the Commons since June, Andrea Leadsom found herself at the centre of controversy in the 2016 leadership campaign when comments she made were interpreted as a claim that she would be a better PM than Mrs May because she was a mother. Asked recently whether Mrs May was the right person to be leading the country, she said she is ‘at the moment’. 


                        Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, arrives at Downing Street on Thursday last week

                        Gavin Williamson – 33/1 

                        How did they vote on Brexit?

                        Remain. 

                        What is their view now?

                        Mr Williamson tweeted today: ‘The Prime Minister has my full support. She works relentlessly hard for our country and is the best person to make sure we leave the EU on 29 March and continue to deliver our domestic agenda.’ 

                        What are their chances?

                        He backed Remain in the referendum and pledged his support for Mrs May in the 2016 leadership contest but has since been mentioned as a potential future Tory leader. 


                        Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is a 33/1 outsider according to the best odds by bookies this evening


                         

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