LONDON (AP) – The Latest on political turmoil in Britain (all times local):
British lawmakers have finished voting in the Conservative Party challenge of Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership.
Three black metal boxes were taken to a room for counting after Conservative lawmakers spent two hours voting on Wednesday.
The more than 300 paper ballots they cast are being counted by hand. The tally is expected to be announced later tonight.
May needs a majority vote to hold onto her position as prime minister and Conservative Party leader. If she is defeated, she will have to resign although she will remain as a caretaker prime minister until a new Conservative leader is chosen.
A British government minister says Prime Minister Theresa May has told restive lawmakers she will step down as the Conservative Party’s leader before the next national election, due in 2022.
May addressed party backbenchers in private ahead of a no-confidence vote on her leadership taking place Wednesday evening.
Solicitor General Robert Buckland says May told them, “In my heart I would like to lead the party into the next election.”
Buckland called the statement “the introductory phrase to her indication that she would accept the fact that that would not happen, that is not her intention.”
A promise to make way for a new Conservative leader would be a way to win over wavering lawmakers ahead of the vote that could end her leadership.
May has not said what she will do if, as many expect, Britain’s Brexit crisis triggers an early election.
Prime Minister Theresa May is speaking to dozens of Conservative lawmakers, less than half an hour before a no-confidence vote among them that will decide her fate.
May was greeted by table banging as she entered a room in the House of Commons to address backbenchers.
That is a customary sign of approval, but May faces a tough crowd that includes rivals such as former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis.
Both are among critics of May’s Brexit deal with the European Union.
Tory Brexiteers are hoping to topple May in Wednesday evening’s vote. She is making a last-minute appeal, saying ditching her now would plunge the country into even more uncertainty.
One lawmaker who attended, James Cleverly, said May “made it very clear that there is a job of work to be done (on Brexit) and this is a delay and a distraction.”
British bookmakers William Hill say they’ve suspended betting on the question of whether Prime Minister Theresa May will win a confidence vote by her party.
William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams says that the odds favored May from the beginning of the day, and did nothing but improve as Wednesday night’s vote neared. Before betting was suspended, people putting money on a May win had to wager 10 pounds to win one pound.
Adams says the firm suspended betting because “we’re 100 percent certain she’s going to win.”
Some Londoners are reacting with sympathy at the news that Prime Minister Theresa May faces a confidence vote that may remove her from power.
Abby Handbridge, a trader at Chapel Market in north London, said Wednesday that the spectacle was “embarrassing” for Britain in the eyes of the world.
“I feel really sorry for Theresa May,” she said. “She’s being battered by everybody and Boris Johnson has just come out with a haircut and weight loss so we know what he is looking for.”
Another trader, 61-year-old David White, compared May’s Conservative Party challengers to “rats deserting a sinking ship.”
“I don’t think it should have come to this,” he said of the formal challenge to May.
Support was hardly unanimous, though, with some traders saying May is power hungry.
Lawmakers casting their votes of confidence in a secret ballot later Wednesday.
Germany’s Cabinet has approved legislation to protect British residents’ rights in the country in the event of a no-deal Brexit and to make the country a more attractive location for banks seeking to relocate.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said ministers have approved a bill safeguarding the German health insurance, unemployment insurance and pension status of British citizens living in Germany and German citizens living in Britain at the time of Brexit.
The future status of those citizens affected by the Brexit process remains especially uncertain following the news earlier that Prime Minister Theresa May will face a no-confidence vote later from lawmakers in her own party. A withdrawal agreement ahead of Britain’s exit from the European Union in March has yet to be voted on by the British Parliament.
Another German bill foresees loosening the requirement for banks to justify why they’re ending a contract with a highly paid employee deemed to be a “bearer of risk,” such as heads of department or high-volume traders.
Germany has much more restrictive rules on dismissing workers than Britain, which is seen as a disincentive for Britain-based banks to shift operations to Frankfurt.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is underlining the European Union’s insistence on sticking to the Brexit agreement as it stands, but stressing that she remains committed to an orderly British withdrawal.
Merkel, who met Tuesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May, noted that “things are in flux” in London.
She said that “we do not have any intention of changing the withdrawal agreement” but otherwise didn’t go into detail.
Merkel said that Germany remains committed to securing an orderly British withdrawal, and said that “we don’t have much time, but we still have time.”
Business figures have expressed alarm about the political uncertainty in the U.K. ahead of a Conservative Party confidence vote on Prime Minister Theresa May later.
Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said politicians should understand the impact of their “high stakes gambles” with Britain’s economy.
“At one of the most pivotal moments for the U.K. economy in decades, it is unacceptable that Westminster politicians have chosen to focus on themselves, rather than on the needs of the country,” he said after the Conservative Party said there would a vote on May’s leadership.
He said there was “utter dismay” among businesses about the vote on Wednesday evening.
Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry said the current turmoil is “weighing heavy” on entrepreneurs.
British Prime Minister Theresa May says a change of national leader would result in Britain’s departure from the European Union being delayed or stopped, as she vowed to fight to stay in power.
May made the defiant statement outside Downing Street on Wednesday, arguing that stepping aside at a time of crisis would “put our country’s future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it.”Â
The U.K. leader is facing a no-confidence vote that will see her removed as party and government leader if she loses.
U.K. leader Theresa May is vowing to fight a no-confidence vote “with everything I’ve got,” appealing to party colleagues to support her leadership.
The announcement of the challenge to May’s leadership throws Britain’s already rocky path out of the European Union, which it is due to leave in March, into further chaos.Â Â
Many Tory lawmakers have been growing angry with May over her handling of Brexit, and the challenge comes days after she postponed a vote to approve a divorce deal with the EU to avoid all but certain defeat.Â
If she loses Wednesday’s vote, May must step down and there will be a contest to choose a new leader. She will remain leader, and prime minister, until the successor is picked. If she wins, she can’t be challenged again for a year.
A British Conservative Party official says Prime Minister Theresa May will face a no-confidence vote from party lawmakers.
Graham Brady says the threshold of 48 letters from lawmakers needed to trigger a leadership vote has been reached. Brady chairs the party committee that oversees leadership contests.
Many lawmakers have been growing angry with May over her handling of Brexit.
If she loses the vote of party legislators, taking place on Wednesday evening, May must step down. If she wins, she can’t be challenged again for a year.