LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday toppling her would risk delaying Brexit and she would not let talk of a leadership challenge distract her from a critical week of negotiations.
Since unveiling a draft divorce deal with the European Union on Wednesday, May’s premiership has been thrust into crisis by the resignation of several ministers, including her Brexit minister, and some lawmakers from her own party seeking to oust her.
To trigger a confidence vote, 48 of her Conservative Party lawmakers must submit a letter to the chairman of the so-called 1922 committee, Graham Brady.
More than 20 lawmakers have said publicly that they have submitted a letter, but others are expected to have done so confidentially. Brady told BBC Radio on Sunday the 48 threshold had not yet been reached.
“These next seven days are going to be critical, they are about the future of this country,” May told Sky News. “I am not going to be distracted from the important job.
“A change of leadership at this point isn’t going to make the negotiations any easier … what it will do is mean that there is a risk that actually we delay the negotiations and that is a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated.”
May said negotiating teams were working “as we speak” and she intended to go to Brussels and meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. She said she would also be speaking to other EU leaders ahead of an EU summit to discuss the deal on Nov. 25.
Several British newspapers reported that five senior pro-Brexit ministers were working together to pressure May to change the deal, but writing in the Sun on Sunday newspaper May said she saw no alternative plan on the table.
Former Brexit minister Dominic Raab, who resigned on Thursday in protest at the deal, said he supported May as leader but her deal was “fatally flawed” and he did not think it would be approved by parliament. He said May must change course.
“I still think a deal could be done but it is very late in the day now and we need to change course,” Raab told the BBC.
“The biggest risk of no deal is taking a bad deal to the House of Commons … it is very important to take the action now.”
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would vote against May’s deal when it came to parliament, but distanced himself from calls for a so-called people’s vote on the final agreement.
“It’s an option for the future, but it’s not an option for today, because if we had a referendum tomorrow, what’s it going to be on? What’s the question going to be?” Corbyn told Sky News.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Janet Lawrence)