Theresa May is heading to Brussels for the second time this week in another frantic bid to win Brexit concessions after surviving a vote of no confidence by Conservative MPs.
The prime minister defeated a no-confidence motion triggered by hardline Brexiteers by 200 votes to 117 in a showdown which failed to heal the bitter Tory divisions over Europe.
Immediately after the result was declared, the PM stood outside 10 Downing Street and pledged to seek “legal and political assurances” on the Brexit backstop from EU leaders.
She is attending an EU summit two days after being rebuffed during a tour of European capitals on Tuesday after she controversially abandoned a Commons vote on her Brexit deal.
During the summit the prime minister is due to give the other 27 EU leaders an update on Brexit in which she will beg for concessions, but the 27 will later discuss Brexit without her.
The prime minister won the vote of Tory MPs after pledging at a meeting of the 1922 Committee an hour before the vote that she would not lead the party into a general election in 2022.
But despite her victory Mrs May faced calls from opponents, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, to resign. They claimed the result meant a third of Conservative MPs had no confidence in her.
But her allies claimed her 200 votes she won were one more than the 199 when she secured the Tory leadership in 2016 and were relieved that she cannot be challenged again for another 12 months.
In her statement in Downing Street, Mrs May said it had been a “long and challenging day” but she was pleased to have received the backing of colleagues in the ballot.
But she added: “Whilst I am grateful for that support, a significant number of colleagues did cast a vote against me and I have listened to what they said.
“Following this ballot, we now need to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people and building a better future for this country.
“A Brexit that delivers on the vote that people gave, that brings back control of our money, our borders and our laws, that protects jobs, security and the Union, that brings the country back together rather than entrenching division.
“That must start here in Westminster, with politicians on all sides coming together and acting in the national interest.”
On the backstop, she said: “For my part, I have heard what the House of Commons said about the Northern Ireland backstop and when I go to the European Council tomorrow I will be seeking legal and political assurances that will assuage the concerns that members of parliament have on that issue.”
Reacting to his defeat, Mr Rees-Mogg said Mrs May should resign “as soon as the Queen has a moment in her diary to see her”. He added: “It’s a terrible result for the prime minister, it really is.”
But despite the hostile response to the vote from the European Research Group’s leadership, some of the prime minister’s opponents accepted the result.
Nadine Dorries said: “The PM has secured the confidence of the parliamentary party tonight. It’s not the way I voted, however, I will fully respect the result.”
Former Minister Crispin Blunt said: “The leadership question is now behind us for a year and we must get behind Theresa May in delivering Brexit.”
© PA Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement in 10 Downing Street, London
And Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt hit out at Mr Rees-Mogg and his European Research Group. “They never, ever stop,” he said angrily.
“Votes against them, letters going in late, nothing matters to ERG. After the apocalypse, all that will be left will be ants and Tory MPs complaining about Europe and their leader.”
Jeremy Corbyn, responding to the result, said: “The prime minister has lost her majority in parliament, her government is in chaos and she is unable to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the country and puts jobs and the economy first.
“It’s clear that she has not been able to negotiate the necessary changes in Europe. She must now bring her dismal deal back to the House of Commons next week so parliament can take back control.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell suggested that Labour could move a confidence motion next week if the PM does not get concessions in Brussels that the Opposition wants.
He said the party was “trying to behave as responsibly as we can” because the prime minister was still in negotiations, adding: “We will judge it day by day.
“In some ways we are giving her every opportunity to get a deal that works for the country and she hasn’t done that.
“We will just have to judge what she comes back with on Sunday night, Monday morning, see what the statement is in the House of Commons on Monday and take a proper judgement then.”