Brexit live: Theresa May suffers fresh Commons Brexit humiliation
MPs vote down the Government motion by 303 to 258.
Theresa May has suffered another humiliating Commons defeat after MPs again voted down her latest Brexit plans.
On another dramatic day at Westminster, MPs voted by 303 to 258 against the motion endorsing the Government’s approach.
The defeat came after the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group announced they had taken a “collective decision” to abstain.
Here’s the latest from Westminster:
Jeremy Corbyn reacts to MPs voting down the Government’s motion.
Following the vote, a Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister would continue with her strategy to secure changes to the backstop.
“Jeremy Corbyn yet again put partisan considerations ahead of the national interest – and yet again, by voting against the Government’s motion, he is in effect voting to make no deal more likely,” the spokesman said.
“While we didn’t secure the support of the Commons this evening, the Prime Minister continues to believe, and the debate itself indicated, that far from objecting to securing changes to the backstop that will allow us to leave with a deal, there was a concern from some Conservative colleagues about taking no deal off the table at this stage.
“The motion on January 29 remains the only one the House of Commons has passed expressing what it does want – and that is legally binding changes to address concerns about the backstop. The Government will continue to pursue this with the EU to ensure we leave on time on March 29.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said: “The vote this evening demonstrates a complete failure of Theresa May’s Tory Government and Parliament’s rejection of more reckless time-wasting as they drag us closer and closer to the cliff edge.
“Theresa May’s brinkmanship may seem to her as a clever tactic in trying to force MPs to support her deal, but tonight Parliament rejected this ploy. The reality is the Prime Minister’s political game in refusing to take no deal off the table is having a serious effect on people’s day-to-day lives.
“The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for a people’s vote for over two years. Tonight’s defeat of the Government makes clear it is long overdue that the Prime Minister took no deal off the table, and offered the public a final say on Brexit with the option to remain in the EU.”
Pro-Europe Tory Anna Soubry told the Press Association: “This is a serious blow to the credibility of the Prime Minister.
“We are in such a mess, I’m afraid, that Parliament is going to have to take back control of this.
“It is a symbol, I’m afraid, of the profound lack of leadership, actually, in both political parties.”
Asked if the defeat weakened the PM in Brussels, Justice Minister Rory Stewart told the Press Association: “I’m not so sure about that.
“I think either Brussels wants to get a deal through, or make a concession, or they don’t.”
Leading Tory eurosceptic Sir Bernard Jenkin described the outcome of the votes as a “fiasco” for the Government.
Sir Bernard told Sky News: “It’s an unfortunate fiasco that the Government’s clumsiness created.
“I don’t know why the Government doesn’t consult a bit more widely before they table these motions. There are 110 eurosceptic Tory MPs who helped defeat the Withdrawal Agreement – not one of us was consulted.”
He played down the significance of the result, saying: “We don’t attach much significance to it. What matters is the votes in a fortnight’s time when the Government has continued to pursue changes to the backstop.”
Speaker John Bercow replied: “It is not obligatory for the Prime Minister to be present on this occasion – other representatives of the Treasury bench are here and if the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU wants to take to the despatch box it’s open to him to do so, but he’s not obliged to do so, or if the Government Chief Whip wants to do so chuntering from a sedentary position.”
Both Stephen Barclay and Julian Smith declined to answer to shouts from the opposition benches.
Mr Bercow added: “It’s not incumbent upon them, they’ve been invited but they are not obliged to do so.”
To shouts of “where is she?”, Jeremy Corbyn called for the Prime Minister to work with him to “prevent a catastrophic no-deal Brexit”.
“It’s surprising the Prime Minister is not even here to hear the result of this vote,” he said.
“I was going to ask her to come to the despatch box now and admit her strategy has failed and bring forward to the House a coherent plan.
“A coherent plan that can deal with the stresses and anxieties that so many people all over over this country are feeling that can be brought to this House so we can make some progress forward to bring people together and prevent a catastrophic no-deal Brexit on 29th March.”
Labour MP David Lammy, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for a second referendum, said: “This is a Valentine’s Day massacre for the Government and a damning indictment of the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan.
“As well as enjoying another humiliating defeat, the Government has been forced into publishing its no-deal advice. Now we wait to see what these papers contain.
“No doubt, having been kept in the dark until now, they give further weight to the mountain of evidence that leaving the EU without a deal will be an economic, security and political catastrophe.
“The Prime Minister has nowhere left to hide. Her threats to throw the country off a cliff-edge if MPs do not vote for her deal will be exposed as deeply cynical by a leader more concerned with the future of her party than her country.
“She should now rule out no-deal and put her deal to a public vote with the option of remaining in the EU.”
Following the result, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded the Prime Minister, who was absent from the Chamber, come back to MPs with a “coherent plan”.
He said: “Tonight’s vote shows there’s no majority for the Prime Minister’s course of action, and yet again her Government has been defeated.
“The Government cannot keep on ignoring Parliament or ploughing on towards 29th March without a coherent plan.
“She can’t keep on just running down the clock and hoping that something will turn up that will save her day and save her face.”
MPs have rejected a motion to endorse the Government’s approach to Brexit by 303 votes to 258 – majority 45.
Labour’s amendment was defeated by 16 votes.
MPs defeated the SNP amendment to extend the Article 50 period.
They rejected amendment I by 315 votes to 93, majority 222.
MPs have defeated Labour’s proposal to push Theresa May to either put her Brexit deal to a Commons vote by February 27 or give Parliament the opportunity to take control of the process.
They rejected amendment A by 322 votes to 306, majority 16.
Pro-EU Conservative Anna Soubry confirmed she would not push her Brexit amendment to a vote in the House of Commons, but said she would be ready to table it again in a fortnight’s time if the Government failed to meet her demand to publish advice it has received on the economic impact of no-deal.
European Research Group deputy chairman Steve Baker said there has been a “collective decision” by the group to abstain on the main Brexit motion if it is unamended.
Theresa May has a “scared duty” not to deliver Brexit, but to “prevent it”, former Attorney General Dominic Grieve said.
He also said that if the PM fails to stop “behaving in this absolutely crazy fashion”, then: “There is going to become a time, when my ability to support this Government is going to run out completely.”
The MP for Beaconsfield said his party leader “talks about her sacred duty over Brexit”, but he dismissed it as a “pretty profane matter”.
He said: “To plunge us into a national crisis, it seems to me that we have a scared duty to prevent it – and I am therefore really alarmed that I find that she does not appear to understand that.”
Away from the Commons, Mrs May has had further phone calls with EU leaders in a bid to keep lines of communication open.
She has spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, prime minister Stefan Lofven of Sweden and Portuguese premier Antonio Costa today, after conversations with French President Emmanuel Macron and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday evening.
Tory Brexiteer Sir William Cash (Stone) said he could not vote for the Government motion, which he labelled “doublethink” and said “further undermines public trust”.
He said: “We’re now truly entering the world of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.
“In his book 1984 Orwell said doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and expecting both of them.
“This double motion is doublethink in action and I cannot possibly vote for it.”
Protests continue outside Parliament while MPs debate.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) confirmed she will table an amendment to extend Article 50 in the event of no deal, which she said was vital to avoid “living in a fantasy world” where no deal could be avoided in another way.
Ms Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “If we don’t do something sensible like this it’s like we’re just all living in a fantasy world in which we talk about alternative arrangements… we say something is going to come along and sort it out and it just doesn’t.
“It’s as if we’re all standing around admiring the finery of the Emperor’s new clothes and actually the Emperor is running around stark naked and everyone is laughing at us – or at least they would be if it wasn’t so sad.
“So I really hope the Government will show some responsibility, I hope they will end up supporting this Bill and I hope they will end up frankly sorting it out even before we get to that point, before it is too late.”
Tory former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab indicated he may not support the Government in tonight’s vote.
Mr Raab said: “We have heard nothing about whether (the Malthouse Compromise) has been formally tabled with our EU friends and partners.
“I understand it has been raised and discussed with Michel Barnier but has a document, a written version of this, actually been shared? This was the basis on which the Brady amendment was adopted and I think it is a legitimate question to ask.
“At the moment I am struggling with the idea of voting for the principled motion but I will listen very carefully to the further assurances ministers will give in winding up because I would rather be in a position of supporting the Government.”
European Research Group chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was “highly unlikely” that eurosceptic Tories would vote against the Government in Thursday evening’s votes.
Mr Rees-Mogg told ITV News: “Today’s business is not fundamentally important. It is all about where the Government is going.
“This is a secondary issue, rather than a primary one, and that is why I think it is highly unlikely people will be voting against this motion.”
He said: “As we are not certain we have put enormous preparations into making sure that Ireland is as ready as we can be for a no-deal, so this is not complacency, but it is competence.
“Ireland certainly wants an orderly Brexit, rather than an disorderly one, the UK does too, so does the EU.
“When everybody wants that to happen we will work extremely hard to achieve that but don’t think for a second that is complacency at all. We are making all the preparations for a no-deal.”
Sir Keir said MPs must now put a “hard stop to running down the clock” and so Labour will back the Yvette Cooper amendment later this month calling for an extension to Article 50 in the event of no deal being agreed by mid-March.
“The simple fact is this, we can’t declare that we are against a no-deal outcome and then do nothing,” he said.
“The Government is failing to act so we must act, hence the next step is to ensure a hard stop to running down the clock to ensure that on 27th February the Prime Minister must either put her deal or allow Parliament to decide what happens next.
“I would hope that anyone who genuinely opposes no deal would see that an extension by that date, 13th March, is unavoidable.”
Sir Keir Starmer came under pressure from his own party colleagues to confirm holding another referendum on the Brexit deal would now be the next step for Labour.
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) urged him to act sooner rather than later and said: “The Government has clearly rejected Labour’s offer of a less damaging Brexit and to wait until the end of March to activate our unanimously agreed conference policy in favour of a public vote would be far, far too late.”
Sir Keir admitted the Prime Minister had been “non-committal” but said discussions continued, although he refused to disclose details as they were “confidential”.
He added: “There must come a point where the options are clarified and reduced, then voted upon, and I agree with that proposition and it needs to be done before the end of March.”
Wallasey Labour MP Angela Eagle intervened in Sir Keir’s speech, saying: “Is he not as astonished as I am that we have a Prime Minister and a Government that are willing to play this kind of reckless gamble with the future prosperity of our country just to keep their rotten party together.”
Sir Keir replied: “Well it is a gamble.”
He added: “The plan is to put essentially the same deal back to this House as a binary choice, my deal or no deal. Perhaps with some additional words which the attorney (general) can say have real significance, but it will be essentially the same deal. That is not holding your nerve, that is plain reckless and we have to say no.”
Sir Keir drew on his past dealings with the PM as he said he did not think Mrs May would take the UK out of the EU without a deal because of her “deep sense of duty”.
The former Director of Public Prosecutions said he had worked with Mrs May when she was Home Secretary, saying she had a “deep sense of duty”, adding: “And deep down I do not think that this Prime Minister will take us out of the EU on the 29th of March, and that’s the basis that we should be having this conversation.”
Sir Keir also suggested the likelihood of getting an improved deal which fixes the issues some MPs have with the backstop before we are due to exit the EU are “slim”.
The shadow Brexit secretary said: “The simple and painful truth is this; if there had been a viable alternative to the backstop there would never have been a backstop.”
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer urged MPs not to be “fooled” the Prime Minister was continuing to negotiate in earnest.
He said: “It is obvious what the Prime Minister is up to – she is pretending to make progress while running down the clock.
“A non-update every other week to buy another two weeks of process, inching ever closer to the 29th March deadline in 43 days. We should not be fooled.”
Mr Barclay said the Malthouse Compromise had been “taken forward with the EU” and raised with the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who had “initial concerns”.
Tory MP Charlie Elphicke (Dover) asked if the so-called alternative arrangements were “now Government policy” and asked “will he take a fully worked up proposal to the EU as part of negotiations”.
Mr Barclay said: “We have taken it forward with the EU – I have raised it with Michel Barnier and I will be discussing it again with him.”
The Malthouse Compromise contains two choices to be offered to the EU: one for how the UK will leave with a deal, and one for how it will leave without. Plan A is similar to the current Withdrawal Agreement, but with changes to the Irish backstop and the implementation period. Plan B assumes that agreement on the Withdrawal Agreement is not possible and creates a “transitional standstill period”.
Referring to the position of European leaders, Mr Barclay said: “If the EU were to make changes to the backstop, whether that would enable a deal to pass… That is why it’s important a clear message is sent from this House as part of those negotiations.
“Colleagues should be in no doubt that the EU will be watching our votes tonight carefully for any sign that our resolve is weakening.”
Mr Barclay said the desire for a deal was shared by many across the EU “because they recognise that no deal is in neither side’s interests. They recognise that no deal is disruptive.”
DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds intervened: “Of course we want to get a deal with the EU, but isn’t it the case that if you take no deal off the table that’s the surest way of ensuring the other side dig in on their current position…?
“So those who call for no deal to be taken off the table are actually playing into the hands of the possibility of a no deal.”
Opening the debate the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said Theresa May must be given more time to take “Parliament’s mandate” for a deal to the EU.
He said: “On the 29th of January a majority of honourable and right honourable members told this House, and our country, that they would support a deal.
“But this support was conditional, that members were prepared to compromise on issues but not on the overriding issue of the backstop.”
Mr Barclay said today’s motion confirms the Commons’ support for Sir Graham Brady’s amendment which was passed last month, which “in effect gives this Government an instruction which has been taken to our European partners”.
He added it is “clear the priority is to address the indefinite nature of the backstop.”
Commons Speaker John Bercow has selected three amendments for consideration:
– Amendment A, Labour’s proposal to push Theresa May to either put her Brexit deal to a Commons vote by February 27 or give Parliament the opportunity to take control of the process.
– Amendment I, the SNP push to extend the Article 50 period.
– Amendment E, Tory former minister Anna Soubry, joined by colleagues and MPs from other parties, with a proposal for the Government to publish within seven days the most recent official briefing document, relating to business and trade, on the implications of a no-deal Brexit presented to Cabinet.
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