Theresa May, UK prime minister, departs number 10 Downing Street on her way to a weekly questions and answers session at Parliament in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dublin: Instead of trying to win concessions from European leaders on the shape of Brexit, British Prime Minister Theresa May instead spent Wednesday trying to convince her Conservative party that she should remain as its leader.

Late Wednesday, the beleaguered British Prime Minister faced a vote of confidence after more than 48 of her MPs filed letters with the party’s 1922 Committee calling for a leadership challenge.

That came after a bruising week in parliament where her government was found in contempt for failing to release legal opinions on the Brexit deal she has negotiated with the European Union, and on Monday she withdrew that deal from a Commons vote, acknowledging that it would have been lost.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, when the leadership challenge was announced, May said: “I will contest that vote with everything I’ve got.”

Instead of heading to Dublin to try and win concessions over the Irish border in the Brexit deal, May spent the day in London trying to shore up support ahead of the ballot that was scheduled to begin at 10pm Dubai time.

The results were expected shortly after midnight.

“A change of leadership in the Conservative party now would put our country’s future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it,” May said, adding that a leadership election would not change the fundamentals of the Brexit negotiations.

“Weeks spent tearing ourselves apart will only create more division just as we should be standing together to serve our country,” she said, adding that it would only serve the interests of Jeremy Corbyn and the opposition Labour party.

Ian Lavery, the chairman of Labour said: “Theresa May’s weakness and failure has completely immobilised the government at this critical time for the country,” adding that the Conservatives’ internal divisions are putting people’s jobs and living standards at risk.

Labour is under pressure from other opposition parties to call a vote of no confidence in May’s government, which unlike Wednesday’s leadership contest could trigger a general election.

As events unfolded, all of May’s cabinet team said publicly they would be supporting the PM, and more than 100 MPs said they would support her. But May needs the backing of at least 158 MPs to win Wednesday night’s vote. That vote is by secret ballot — and public support may not necessarily translate into a vote for her leadership.

Likely outcomes

Theresa May needs the support of a majority of the 315 MPs to continue to lead the Conservative party. Here are the likely scenarios...

A clear majority

If May wins the overwhelming support of MPs, her leadership cannot be challenged for 12 months.

A small majority

If May wins but there’s a large minority against her, May might decide it’s time to resign, triggering a leadership contest.

A minority

May must win the support of at least 158 MPs. Anything less, and a leadership contest is triggered. She cannot run.

Smelling blood

Even if a weakened May wins the support of her MPs, her minority government can still face a no confidence vote in parliament.