Theresa May has dismissed calls from her own backbench MPs to resign and told reporters “I’m not a quitter”.

Speaking to journalists on the plane before arriving in China to promote British trade abroad, the embattled prime minister, May said “there is a long-term job to be done” and added she was “serving my country and my party”.

May did not directly address the concerns of her own MPs that her leadership had become a drag on the Conservative party, with her government unable to make progress on Brexit but paralysed to address any of the growing domestic problems facing the British public, such as the crises in the NHS and housing.

Hardline Brexiteers have become disillusioned with Theresa May, since it has become apparent that there is no way for the UK to “have its cake and eat it” in negotiations with the EU, while more centrist MPs have condemned her lack of action on domestic issues and described a nation politically adrift.

A number of backbench MPs have floated the idea of a leadership contest sooner rather than later to stop the Conservatives haemorrhaging votes and failing to win over the younger generation, but to date the lack of good alternatives have kept the PM in power.

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