The Evening Standard reports Tory rebels claim 'enough numbers to challenge Theresa May'.

Rebel Conservative MPs today claimed they had the 48 names needed to trigger a confidence vote in Theresa May’s leadership.

Brexiteers made the assertion just hours after Michael Gove threw the Prime Minister a lifeline by pulling back from quitting Cabinet. But three new letters seeking a confidence vote were fired off by Tory MPs, taking the total of known letters to 20.

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, a member of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group, said he had a list of more than 48 MPs who had sent letters, enough to trigger a ballot under the party’s rules.

But it appeared that some MPs had withdrawn letters, because there was no immediate announcement from Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee chairman who keeps a tally, that the trigger point had been met.

Tory whips were unexpectedly summoned to Westminster, even though the House was not sitting. No 10 gave no explanation for the sudden activity on a day normally reserved for local constituency business, fueling rumors that Downing Street was at panic stations.

48 Hours

The Express, an unreliable tabloid, proclaims DEADLINE FOR MAY: PM to get just 48 hours notice before no-confidence vote made public.

That may very well be accurate, perhaps an accurate guess given that government whips were unexpectedly recalled to Westminster.

Mrs May is facing a battle to get the deal, which was passed by Cabinet on Wednesday night, through Parliament with Brexiteer Conservative MPs, Remainers, the Labour party and the DUP all saying they will vote down the plan. She has been accused of breaking promises and handing control back to Brussels.

How the Vote Works

Please consider How a vote of no confidence would work in UK as Theresa May's leadership comes under threat over Brexit deal

Vote of No Confidence Procedure

  • A 'no confidence vote' takes place if the Prime Minister is no longer deemed fit to hold her role by her own MPs. 
  • A total of 48 Tory MPs must write to the party's 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady to request a vote of confidence.
  • If the Prime Minister won the confidence vote, she would remain in office and be awarded immunity for a year. 
  • If the Prime Minister loses a confidence vote, she is obliged to resign and would be barred from standing in the leadership election that follows.

What Then?

  • A two-week ‘cooling off’ period will commence. 
  • During this time, Parliament is dissolved, although Mrs May would still remain in Downing Street. 
  • If the Tories cannot choose a new leader and form a new Government with the support of a majority of MPs within 14 calendar days, an early General Election is triggered.
  • A new government could also include a cross-party allegiance and could dramatically change the government as we understand it now.
  • If the Tories cannot choose a new leader and form a new Government with the support of a majority of MPs within 14 calendar days, an early General Election is triggered.
  • A new government could also include a cross-party allegiance and could dramatically change the government as we understand it now.

No Confidence Math

It takes 48 members of May's own party to trigger the vote of no confidence.

May needs 50% plus 1 member to survive the vote. That would end motions of no confidence for a year, but it would not be the end of May's problems.

The DUP

If May survives the vote of no confidence, her troubles are not over. May has a working majority only because the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland is in her alliance.

If DUP pulls out of the coalition, it could trigger elections. DUP is opposed to the Irish border backstop proposal in the text.

The Guardian reports Theresa May Admits DUP May Not Back Brexit Deal.

Woes Still Not Over

Even if DUP stays in the Coalition, May's woes are not over. The UK parliament as a whole needs to pass this monstrosity.

The Guardian notes Six Potential Outcomes.

Six Scenarios

  1. Parliament blocks Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement and political declarations. May faces an enormous task to win parliamentary approval, given that Labour, the SNP, the DUP and 51 Tories have said they will not vote for it.
  2. May withdraws the current draft agreement. The prime minister could decide that she will not get the draft agreement through parliament and could seek to renegotiate with the EU. This would anger Tory backbenchers and Brussels and would be seen as a humiliation for her government. It might spark a leadership contest too.
  3. Extend article 50: May could ask the European council to extend article 50, giving her more time to come up with a deal that could be passed by parliament – at present, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019. Such a request would not necessarily be granted. Some EU governments are under pressure from populist parties to get the UK out of the EU as soon as possible.
  4. Conservative MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. A vote could be held as soon as early next week. All Tory MPs would be asked to vote for or against their leader. If May wins, she cannot be challenged for at least 12 months. If she loses, there would be a leadership contest to decide who will become prime minister.
  5. General election – three possible routes: 1) May could table a parliamentary vote for a general election that would have to be passed by two thirds of MPs. This is unlikely. 2) A general election could be called if a simple majority of MPs vote that they have no confidence in the government. Seven Tory MPs, or all of the DUP MPs, would have to turn against the government for it to lose the vote, triggering a two-week cooling-off period. 3) Another route to a general election would be for the government to repeal or amend the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which creates a five-year period between general elections. Unlikely.
  6. Second referendum: May could decide it is impossible to find a possible draft deal that will be approved by parliament and go for a people’s vote. The meaningful vote could be amended to allow MPs to vote on whether the country holds a second referendum. It is unclear whether enough MPs would back a second referendum and May has ruled it out.

What's Likely?

Option one, if May survives that far.

However, if that looks likely to May, it's possible she resigns. Ahead of the vote, she may threaten to resign or threaten to call elections to get her way.

Labour would be thrilled by the prospect of new elections. Would enough Tories and DUP MPs be willing to risk an election?

That depends on what support for Labour looks like at the time.

My primary guess is new elections are coming, one way or another. May will not survive.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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