BREXIT REVOLT: PM suffers DEVASTATING Commons defeat as Parliament SEIZES CONTROL of exit
Ministers voted 329 to 302 for Sir Oliver Letwin’s amendment to enable MPs to take control of the Parliamentary timetable on Wednesday and take part in ‘indicative votes’ to determine other ways forward on Brexit other than the Prime Minister’s own withdrawal agreement. Business Minister Richard Harrington, Health Minister Steve Brine and Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt all resigned to vote in favour of the amendment. Thirty MPs in total rebelled against the Government to vote in favour of the amendment, including George Freeman, Dominic Grieve, Nicky Morgan, Damian Green and Justine Greening.
It is another crushing blow for Theresa May as her future as Prime Minister continues to hang in the balance.
Earlier, she had conceded her Brexit deal would not be brought back before Parliament for a third meaningful vote as it still doesn’t have enough support.
In yet another day of high drama, Commons Speaker John Bercow selected three of the seven amendments put forward by MPs as the latest round of Brexit debates began.
The cross-party amendment by Sir Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve and Hilary Benn and signed by 109 MPs from all political parties, was seen as the most significant as it would allow Parliament to seize control of the agenda in the Commons on Wednesday.
This would enable MPs to take part in a series of indicative votes to establish whether there is a majority for a number of possible Brexit outcomes.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also tabled an amendment calling on the Government to provide Parliamentary time to also debate a range of Brexit options, including Labour’s own plan, the Common Market 2.0 proposals, a customs union and a second referendum. This was pulled just before voting was due to begin.
In lengthy debates in the hours leading up to the late-night votes, deputy Prime Minister David Lidington claimed the amendment was not “necessary”, adding: “None of the changes that that amendment seeks to secure are changes to the withdrawal agreement.”
The third amendment was put forward by Labour former Foreign Secretary Dame Margaret Beckett, requiring Parliament to be given an opportunity in the week before a mooted no deal Brexit to vote on whether the Government should go ahead and take the UK out of the European Union or seek a further extension to negotiations.
This was narrowly rejected by MPs by 314 to 311 votes.
Making a statement in the Commons earlier in the day, Theresa May conceded there is not enough support in Parliament to bring back her Brexit deal for a third meaningful vote.
Brussels has set a deadline of Friday for the Prime Minister to secure Parliamentary approval for her withdrawal agreement if the UK is to leave the European Union with a deal in place on May 22.
If her deal once again fails to get through the Commons, then the UK has until April 12 to propose a different approach or crash out of the bloc without an agreement.
I have had to conclude that as things stand, there is still not sufficient support in the House to bring back the deal for a third meaningful vote
Prior to her statement in the Commons, Mrs May had spoken with Mr Corbyn and DUP leader Arlene Foster in a desperate attempt to rally support for her deal, but both parties remain strongly opposed to it.
She told MPs in the Commons: “I have had to conclude that as things stand, there is still not sufficient support in the House to bring back the deal for a third meaningful vote.
“I continue to have discussions with colleagues across the House to build support, so that we can bring the vote forward this week, and guarantee Brexit.”
The Prime Minister had also made clear the Government would oppose the indicative votes plan and would not regard the outcome of any votes as binding.
She added ministers would provide their own mechanism for indicative votes to take place, but warned she was sceptical of the process producing a useful outcome and would not promise to implement the results.
Mrs May said: “No Government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is,” she told MPs.
“So I cannot commit the Government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this House. But I do commit to engaging constructively with this process.”
Mr Corbyn vowed Labour would back the Letwin amendment, declaring: “It is time for Parliament to take control.”
“Unless this House agrees to it, no deal will not happen. No Brexit must not happen.
“And a slow Brexit, which extends Article 50 beyond May 22, forces the British people to take part in European elections and gives up control of any of our borders, laws, money or trade, is not a Brexit that will bring the British people together.”
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