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Theresa May hints she will step down before next election

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LONDON — Downing Street fuelled speculation on Wednesday that Theresa May could resign before the next election, a move that could shore up support ahead of an imminent vote on her leadership.

Ahead of Wednesday evening’s confidence vote, a spokesperson for the prime minister said: “This vote isn’t about who leads us into the next general election.”

“It is about whether it is sensible to change leader at this point in Brexit negotiations.”

“She believes it’s her duty to serve as long as her party wants her to.”

The news will be interpreted as a hint that Theresa May is prepared to stand down before the next general election, scheduled for 2022, if Conservative MPs back her premiership tonight and allow her to deliver Brexit.

MPs loyal to the prime minister have advised her to set a departure date or face defeat in this evening’s vote, with some of her restless opponents likely to be appeased if she agrees to leave instead of fighting another election.

Conservative MPs will vote tonight on whether to depose Theresa May as party leader after at least 48 said they had no confidence in her. She requires 158 votes to survive, though winning by a small margin could still compel her to resign.

The prime minister vowed on Wednesday morning to fight the contest with “everything I have got” and warned that removing her as prime minister could result in Brexit being cancelled or delayed.

This is a developing story.

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