Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will not lead the Conservative Party into the next general election.
She said the party would prefer to “to go into that election with another leader”, as she arrived in Brussels for an EU summit.
It confirms what she told MPs ahead of a confidence vote triggered by MPs angry at her Brexit policy.
Mrs May won the vote but has vowed to listen to the concerns of the 37% of Tory MPs who voted against her.
The next scheduled general election is in 2022.
Mrs May said: “I’ve said that in my heart I would love to be able to lead the Conservative Party into the next general election but I think it is right that the party feels that they would prefer to go into that election with another leader.”
The prime minister said she hoped to “assuage” the concerns of Tory MPs who voted against her by seeking legal “assurances” from EU leaders that the backstop plan to prevent the return of a hard border in Northern Ireland would be temporary.
Critics say Mrs May’s backstop plan will keep the UK tied to EU rules indefinitely and curb its ability to strike trade deals.
The EU says it will not renegotiate the backstop, but may agree to give greater assurances on its temporary nature.
It seems unlikely that would win over enough support for her Brexit plan to have a realistic chance of getting through the House of Commons, with tensions heightened in the Conservative Party in the wake of Wednesday evening’s confidence vote.
Downing Street confirmed on Thursday that the MPs’ “meaningful vote” on the deal will not now take place before Christmas – it was abandoned this week when Mrs May admitted it would have been “rejected by a significant margin”.
The PM’s spokeswoman said it would happen “as soon as possible in January”.
The prime minister’s admission that she’ll leave office before the next election fended off yesterday’s clamour from a chunk of her party to go.
But it hardly makes things easier from today onwards.
Just as she is desperate to get a time limit on the controversial “backstop”, she now has a limit on her time in office.
Now it is public, in her own words, questions won’t just be about her impossible Brexit agreement but also about how, and when, she will finally go.