Will the British Government Collapse? Prime Minister Forced Into Leadership Challenge by Party Civil War

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a leadership challenge from within her own party after dozens of Conservative members of Parliament submitted letters of no confidence in the embattled leader, according to the BBC.

Rumors of an internal party coup have been swirling for weeks as May struggled to sell her contentious Brexit deal to Parliament and the country. Her deal was due to be voted on by Parliament Tuesday, but May canceled the vote after it became clear the blueprint would be voted down.

Read More: What Is the Brexit Deal and Can Theresa May Survive as British Prime Minister? Full Chaos Explained

For an internal no-confidence vote to be formally triggered, at least 48 Conservative Party MPs needed to submit letters of no confidence in the prime minister to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee—the parliamentary group of the Conservatives.

In a letter sent Wednesday morning, Brady confirmed the threshold had been reached. The no-confidence vote will be held between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters outside 10 Downing Street, May vowed to "contest that vote with everything I've got." She warned that a change of leadership at such a sensitive time in the Brexit process "would put our country's future at risk" and explained that any new leader would not have time to push through the required Brexit legislation by the end of March.

In a threat to the same Brexiteers who have driven the challenge against her, May said the tight deadline may force a new leader to delay or even cancel Brexit. May vowed she stood "ready to finish the job."

To survive the challenge, May will need to secure the votes of a simple majority of 158 Tory MPs. However, as The Independent explained, if more than 100 party members vote against her, May's authority could be irrevocably damaged and she may face pressure from Cabinet ministers to step down regardless. If she does survive the vote, May will be immune from any new leadership challenge for one year.

Brady told the BBC he had spoken to the prime minister and noted she was "keen that matters be resolved as quickly as is reasonably possible." He explained that if May loses Wednesday evening's vote, she will remain prime minister while the Conservatives select their new leader. Though he refused to be led on when this could be, Brady stressed that such a vote would be arranged as soon as possible.

Since taking office in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum in July 2016, May has struggled to steer a fractured nation and parliament through the process of leaving the European Union.

Nonetheless, the 62-year-old has proved to be a stubborn political survivor, hanging on to power amid fierce internal and external opposition, and despite a disastrous general election in June 2017.

Recent internal opposition to the prime minister has largely come from the right wing of the party, populated by those who wish to see the U.K. leave the EU regardless of whether or not a deal is reached with the bloc.

The Brexiteer challenge has been largely coordinated by the European Research Group. The vehemently eurosceptic group tried to prompt a vote of no confidence in the prime minister last month when she revealed the details of her draft Brexit agreement with the EU but was unable to corral enough supporters. If May is toppled, the ERG will prove a potent force in selecting the party's next leader.

The ERG and its allies believe May's deal is insufficient and leaves the U.K. too closely tethered to the EU. In the absence of an agreement more beneficial to the U.K., its members argue, Britain should simply crash out of the bloc on March 29, 2019, in what has become known as a "hard" or "no-deal" Brexit.

Theresa May Brexit leadership challenge Conservative Party
Prime Minister Theresa May answers questions at a press conference after attending a special session of the European Council over Brexit on November 25 in Brussels. Dozens of Conservative Party MPs submitted letters of no confidence in the embattled leader, reported the BBC. Sean Gallup/Getty Images
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