Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the media outside 10 Downing Street. | PETER NICHOLLS

Theresa May, who faces a vote of no confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party, yesterday said that a new leader wouldn't be in place by the 21 January legal deadline. "So a leadership election risks handing control of the Brexit negotiations to opposition MPs in parliament."

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"A new leader wouldn't have time to re-negotiate a withdrawal agreement and get the legislation through parliament by 29 March, so one of their first acts would have to be extending or rescinding Article 50, delaying or even stopping Brexit when people want us to get on with it."