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British PM May says changing leadership will delay Brexit 

Key Points
  • "As far as I know, no, it has not," May told Sky News, when asked if the threshold had been met for a formal leadership contest, Reuters reported.
  • Under the Conservative Party's own rules, 48 letters of no confidence in May are required to trigger a challenge. At least 20 have been made public and it's expected that a number of others have been sent but not declared.
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Theresa May says leadership contest would jeopardize smooth Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday that the number of letters required to trigger a no-confidence vote in the Parliament had not been met and a change in leadership will only delay Brexit.

"As far as I know, no, it has not," May told Sky News, when asked if the threshold had been met for a formal leadership contest, Reuters reported.

Under the Conservative Party's own rules, 48 letters of no confidence in May are required to trigger a challenge. At least 20 have been made public and it's expected that a number of others have been sent but not declared.

If 48 Conservative MPs (Members of Parliament) back a no-confidence vote, there will be a leadership contest and the prime minister would need more than 50 percent of the vote to stay in office. On the plus side, should she win that vote, she could not be challenged again for at least a year. A vote could happen as early as Monday.

Speaking to Sky News, May said she was going to Brussels to meet European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. She further added that when the deal comes to the Parliament, lawmakers should think about the need to deliver on Brexit. If the deal is voted down by the Parliament, May said, the government would come back with proposals for the next step.

On Sunday, the chairman of the committee in charge of Conservative Party leadership contests told BBC radio that the threshold for triggering challenge to May's leadership had not been met.

"The intention is clear that if it were to happen it ought to be a test of opinion very quickly in order to clear the air and get it out of the way," Graham Brady, chair of the '1922 Committee' said.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14: British Prime minister, Theresa May delivers a Brexit statement at Downing Street on November 14, 2018 in London, England. Theresa May addresses the nation after her cabinet of senior ministers met and approved the wording of the draft Brexit agreement which will see the UK leave the European Union on March 29th 2019. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Jack Taylor | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Tough times ahead

Last week, May said she had obtained enough support from her senior ministers for her draft Brexit deal to move forward. This came after she also received support from officials at the EU earlier in the week.

But her government came under pressure when a short flurry of ministers, including Brexit minister Dominic Raab, decided to resign from their positions in protest at her proposals. Raab, in a letter to the U.K leader, said he couldn't accept the deal after the promises the ruling Conservative Party made to the country in an election manifesto last year.

On Sunday, Raab told BBC in an interview that May's Brexit deal was totally flawed but she could still change course, Reuters reported.

He said he would back May if there was a confidence vote and that talk of a leadership challenge was distracting when the government should be focussed on delivering Brexit.

"I still think a deal could be done but it is very late in the day now and we need to change course," Raab told the BBC, adding that changes should be made before the deal is brought to parliament as lawmakers would not support it as it stands.

"It is very important to take the action now."

Sterling plunged to $1.2833 from around $1.2994 on Thursday, following news of Raab's resignation. The currency had a volatile week driven by uncertainties surrounding the fate of May's draft Brexit deal in the U.K. Parliament. The pound has since stabilized, and Friday morning had scrambled higher to $1.2807 versus the dollar. Further weakness in sterling is forecast however with uncertainties surrounding May's leadership.

However, May told Sky News that changing leadership will not make negotiations easier. She further added that U.K. should not reach a situation where Brexit is delayed or people try to stop it from happening.

"A change of leadership at this point isn't going to make the negotiations any easier ... what it will do is mean that there is a risk that actually we delay the negotiations and that is a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated," May said.

May also said that a second referendum is not on the cards.

- CNBC's David Reid and Reuters contributed to this story.