Wed. May 22nd, 2019

Theresa May’s Brexit deal defeated by 149 votes

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MPs have rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a second time to prompt further instability at Westminster and uncertainty over the UK’s departure from the EU.

The prime minister, whose political future has also been thrown into doubt, saw 391 MPs vote against her withdrawal agreement on Tuesday night, with 242 voting in favour.

This delivered a defeat by 149 votes for Mrs May’s deal.

In January, the prime minister suffered a larger 230-vote defeat over her Brexit deal.

After the result of the Commons vote was announced, Mrs May confirmed she would push ahead with two further votes on Brexit outcomes this week.

The first of these will see MPs asked whether they want to approve a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday, with the prime minister granting Tory MPs a free vote on this issue.

A number of Conservative Brexiteers, including Tory deputy chair James Cleverly, soon declared their support for keeping such an option open, along with the DUP.

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If the Commons rejects leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement, MPs will then hold a vote on whether to extend the Article 50 period and delay the UK’s departure from the EU beyond 29 March.

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But Mrs May warned: “Voting against leaving without a deal and for extension does not solve the problems we face.

“The EU will want to know what use we mean to make of such an extension and this House will have to answer that question.

“Does it wish to revoke Article 50, does it want to hold a second referendum, or does it want to leave with a deal but not this deal?

“These are unenviable choices that, thanks to the decision that the House has made this evening, must now be faced.”

A Downing Street source said the prime minister had not discussed resigning with Number 10 aides, despite the fresh rejection of her Brexit strategy.

Senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin described Mrs May’s government as a “very time-limited administration”, telling Sky News: “Her authority is very severely impaired now.”

But he suggested the prime minister should not immediately resign.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose party maintained its opposition to the prime minister’s deal, told MPs the “enormous” defeat for Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement showed it was “clearly dead”.

He accused Mrs May of continuing to threaten MPs “with the danger of no deal” and said Labour would once again put forward its own proposals for a Brexit deal.

Mr Corbyn added: “The prime minister has run down the clock and the clock has been run out on her.

“Maybe it’s time instead that we have a general election and the people can choose who their government should be.”

However, unlike after the first defeat of the prime minister’s deal, the Labour leader made no immediate move to force an election through the tabling of a no-confidence motion in the government.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier claimed the bloc had “done everything it can” to help get Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement over the line.

“The impasse can only be solved in the UK,” he added. “Our ‘no-deal’ preparations are now more important than ever before.”

A spokesperson for European Council President Donald Tusk suggested Tuesday night’s vote had “significantly” increased the chances of a no-deal Brexit.

They added Brussels would “consider” a request from the UK to extend Article 50, but warned there would need to be a “credible justification” for a delay to Brexit.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had already warned Mrs May there will be “no third chance” to negotiate her Brexit deal.

PM: ‘I profoundly regret the decision taken’

Business groups expressed exasperation at the continuing failure by MPs to agree on a Brexit outcome.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, called on parliament “to stop this circus”.

She said: “Enough is enough. This must be the last day of failed politics. A new approach is needed by all parties. Jobs and livelihoods depend on it.

“Extending Article 50 to close the door on a March no-deal is now urgent. It should be as short as realistically possible and backed by a clear plan.”

MPs spurned Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement for the second time despite the prime minister having secured what she claimed were legally binding changes to her deal.

A last-ditch visit to Strasbourg to meet EU officials on Monday night saw Mrs May return with further assurances on the Irish border backstop, which forms a significant part of opposition to her deal.

The backstop is designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland should talks on a future EU-UK trade relationship break down.

Many Brexit-supporting MPs fear it could permanently leave the UK in an effective customs union with the EU.

Tuesday night’s crunch Commons vote was held after Attorney General Geoffrey Cox admitted that, despite the prime minister’s efforts to alter her Brexit deal, the legal risk of the UK having no ability to unilaterally exit the backstop was “unchanged”.

However, in fresh legal advice, Mr Cox did conclude Mrs May’s extraction of extra reassurances from the EU that the UK would not be trapped indefinitely in the backstop had “reduced the risk” of such an outcome.

The inability of the attorney general to substantially alter his legal advice on the withdrawal agreement prompted the DUP to confirm they would not support the prime minister’s Brexit deal.

The Northern Ireland party, who prop up Mrs May’s government at Westminster, said “sufficient progress has not been achieved” in altering the withdrawal agreement.

The European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative eurosceptics had formed their own “Star Chamber” of lawyers from among their number to rule on the prime minister’s added assurances on her withdrawal agreement.

They also concluded Mrs May had not done enough to secure their support.

Other prominent Brexiteers also stood firm in their opposition to the prime minister’s Brexit deal.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who spearheaded the Vote Leave campaign ahead of the 2016 EU referendum, told MPs that Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement had “reached the end of the road”.

However, a number of Tory MPs – including former Brexit secretary David Davis – reversed their opposition to Mrs May’s deal from January’s vote and backed it on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, despite recent efforts by Mrs May to convince Brexit-friendly Labour MPs to vote for her withdrawal agreement – including more cash for deprived areas and guarantees on post-Brexit workers’ rights – only three did so.

These were Kevin Barron, Caroline Flint and John Mann.

Theresa May suffers 149-vote defeat as MPs reject Brexit deal for second time

Theresa May has seen MPs reject her Brexit deal for a second time to prompt further instability at Westminster and uncertainty over the UK’s departure from the EU. The prime minister saw 391 MPs vote against her withdrawal agreement on Tuesday night, with 242 voting in favour.

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