Perennially listing but seemingly unsinkable British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a vote of no confidence in her leadership of the Conservative party on Wednesday, winning 200–117. The secret ballot vote was triggered after Conservative lawmakers wrote letters, angered by the deal she negotiated with European leaders over Britain’s impending exit from the EU. She will now be immune from another leadership challenge for a year.
May won’t have long to savor her victory. Earlier this week, she postponed a planned parliamentary vote on the Brexit agreement when it was clear she didn’t have enough support for the deal, which controversially keeps Britain in a customs union with Europe in order to avoid the imposition of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
On Thursday, she’ll head back to Brussels for further discussions on the Ireland issue, despite EU leaders having repeatedly said they have no interest in reopening the question for discussion.
Of course, both sides have gone back on supposedly unshakeable commitments multiple times throughout this process. But May still must confront the so-called trilemma: There’s no arrangement under which Britain could leave the EU’s single market, avoid a hard border in Ireland, and keep the country economically united. Now, May has even less time to solve the problem and an even weaker position to negotiate from.
As much as British lawmakers across the political spectrum may be united in their dislike of the deal May negotiated, today’s vote seems to indicate that very few of them think they could come up with a better one.