The pound soared against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) and euro (GBPEUR=X) after it was confirmed that UK prime minister Theresa May faces a confidence vote on her leadership.
May’s Conservative party needed 48 letters from MPs to trigger a vote. Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady confirmed today he had received those letters, meaning the threshold for a vote of no confidence had been reached and the vote will go ahead tonight.
The prime minister has already received public declarations of support from more than 158 Conservative MPs, which is the number required to win the vote.
But the vote will be a secret ballot, and analysts expect some MPs who have backed her on social media or in the press will privately vote to topple her as Conservative leader. The ballot will be held between 6pm and 8pm London time on Wednesday evening, with the result expected to be announced by 9pm.
The pound edged higher this morning before spiking on reports that May had enough MPs on side to keep her position safe for another 12 months.
Sterling was up 1.3% against the dollar and 0.8% against the euro by mid-afternoon, rising off the previous day’s 20-month low as traders began betting on May’s survival.
May said in a statement at 8.45am that she intended to “contest that vote with everything I’ve got. I’ve been a member of the Conservative party for 40 years, as an activist, councillor, shadow minister, home secretary, and now prime minister.”
She said that a change of leadership will put the country’s future at risk and hand the control of the Brexit process over to opposition MPs in parliament. The pound rose further after the statement by about 0.4%.
Cabinet ministers are among the majority of Conservative MPs who have now publicly declared that they would support her in the vote tonight:
I will support the Prime Minister @theresa_may tonight. This is a totally inappropriate time to have a contest. The country expects us to provide stability not damaging division.
— Dr Liam Fox MP (@LiamFox) December 12, 2018
Let’s all get behind @Theresa_May to complete the job on brexit and keep on delivering on jobs & growth and tackling injustices. A leadership challenge does nothing to secure brexit, and is the last thing our country, or the party, needs at this critical time.
— Damian Hinds (@DamianHinds) December 12, 2018
Chris Grayling, Britain’s transport secretary, said in a statement: “I will be backing Theresa May tonight. At this crucial point, the last thing the country needs is a prolonged and introspective leadership contest.
“I was one of the first cabinet ministers to back Brexit. Delivering a deal was never going to be simple.
“Theresa May is the best person to make sure we actually leave the EU and deliver on the Brexit that I and the people of our great country voted for.”
Even May’s former rival for the Conservative party leadership two years ago pledged her support:
Vital to support @theresa_may today. She is working hard in the interest of the U.K. to get a good Brexit deal and she has my full support.
— Andrea Leadsom MP (@andrealeadsom) December 12, 2018
Extra reporting by Tom Belger.