Brexit: Theresa May loses vote by 344 to 286 as PM hints at election

Theresa May’s Brexit is in tatters today – and Tory rebels are already calling on her to quit – after her deal was defeated in the Commons by 58 votes.

The Prime Minister has now hinted she will consider collapsing Parliament and calling a general election after the ‘grave’ result and said: ‘I fear we are reaching the limits of the process in this House.’ 

Britain will now not leave the EU on May 22 and Mrs May is expected to beg Brussels for a longer Article 50 extension to avoid a No Deal Brexit on April 12.

No 10 has warned a third defeat meant up to five years trapped inside the EU and European Council president Donald Tusk has now called an emergency summit of  leaders in Brussels on April 10 to discuss the implications of the vote.

Remainer MPs will now press on with attempts to force a long delay and soft Brexit on the PM and look likely to win a majority on Monday for a combined customs union preceded by a second referendum. 

Hinting at a general election three years early, Theresa May told the Commons: ‘I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House. This House has rejected no-deal. It has rejected no Brexit. On Wednesday it rejected all the variations of the deal on the table, and today it has rejected approving the Withdrawal Agreement alone and continuing a process on the future’. 

Afterwards her official spokesman refused three times to deny that a general election is now on the table. He also did not deny Mrs May could bring her deal back for a fourth vote before April 12.

As the result came in thousands of pro-Brexit protesters gathered in Parliament Square chanting ‘disgrace’, ‘shame on you’ and ‘we want Brexit now’ at the culmination of a 270-mile march from Sunderland that started a fortnight ago. 

Theresa May heads back to Downing Street after her deal was defeated for a third time and hinted that a general election is an option

Theresa May heads back to Downing Street after her deal was defeated for a third time and hinted that a general election is an option

Theresa May heads back to Downing Street after her deal was defeated for a third time and hinted that a general election is an option

Thousands of Brexit protesters gathered in Parliament Square with many chanting 'disgrace' and 'shame on you' as MPs voted to delaty Brexit again

Thousands of Brexit protesters gathered in Parliament Square with many chanting 'disgrace' and 'shame on you' as MPs voted to delaty Brexit again

Thousands of Brexit protesters gathered in Parliament Square with many chanting ‘disgrace’ and ‘shame on you’ as MPs voted to delaty Brexit again

With the vote on Mrs May’s deal going against her for the third time, it emerged:

  • Theresa May faces choice of general election, bringing vote back or asking the EU for a long extension – but her own MPs are already calling on her to quit;
  • PM failed to convince Tory Brexiteers, the DUP and Labour rebels to switch despite begging ‘with all her heart’
  • MPs led by Sir Oliver Letwin and Yvette Cooper could now change the law next week to force Mrs May to pursue a soft Brexit option, such as a customs union and second referendum;
  • Experts predict a general election would not break the Brexit deadlock and the public are also against it; 
  • Thousands have gathered for a pro-Brexit rally outside Parliament on day Britain was meant to leave EU;

Mrs May had begged the Commons to deliver on the result of the 2016 referendum – but the 10 DUP MPs and 34 hardcore Tory Brexiteers and remainers deserted her.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW THAT MAY’S DEAL HAS FAILED?

What happens now that May’s deal has failed?

MPs will try to force a soft Brexit next week – and No 10 has threatened to call an election rather than be railroaded. 

Technically Brexit day will be reset to April 12, but rebel MPs have already started the process to delay that by months or even years.

On Monday, MPs will have more ‘indicative votes’ to choose a Brexit alternative. Momentum is gaining for a majority to form behind agreeing a customs union with the EU and holding a second referendum. 

Once MPs have a majority for a Brexit alternative, they will try to pass a law on Wednesday to force Theresa May to adopt their plan. 

Ministers have threatened to call an election if MPs force them into a soft Brexit – and at this point May could call one. 

A snap election would be incredibly messy and would likely deliver a similar division among the parties. 

May could instead announce she is stepping down, agree a long delay to Brexit to hold an election and Tory leadership contest.

A delay to Brexit would also mean Britain must participate in EU elections at the end of May.

Her appeal to Labour also failed, because only five MPs decided to defy Jeremy Corbyn. 

ERG chairman Steve Baker, who has vowed never to vote for the PM’s EU divorce, said: ‘This must be the final defeat for Theresa May’s Deal.

‘It’s finished. And we must move on. It has not passed. It will not pass. I regret to say it is time for Theresa May to follow through on her words and make way so that a new leader can deliver a Withdrawal Agreement which will be passed by Parliament. This has been a tragic waste of time and energy for the country. We can waste no more.’

Before the vote the Prime Minister had begged MPs ‘with all her heart’ to vote for her deal and warned: ‘If you don’t vote for the motion, people will ask why you didn’t vote for Brexit?’ 

But it failed to convince, and Mrs May said after today’s defeat: ‘I think it should be a matter of profound regret to every member of this House that once again we have been unable to support leaving the European Union in an orderly fashion.

‘The implications of the House’s decision are grave. The legal default now is that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on April 12 – in just 14 days’ time.

‘This is not enough time to agree, legislate for and ratify a deal, and yet the House has been clear it will not permit leaving without a deal. And so we will have to agree an alternative way forward’.  

No 10 will now consider to call a snap general election if MPs try to pass laws to force May to pursue their option next week.

Downing Street said that despite the Government losing the vote, it was still not an ‘inevitability’ that the UK would have to take part in elections to the European Parliament in May.

A No 10 source indicated that the Prime Minister would continue to seek support in the Commons for her deal.

‘Clearly it was not the result we wanted. But, that said, we have had a number of senior Conservative colleagues who have felt able to vote with the Government today. They have done so in higher numbers than previously,’ the source said.

‘Clearly there is more work to do. We are at least going in the right direction.’ 

The European Union has now summoned leaders to an extraordinary summit next month warning that Britain is now ‘likely’ to crash out of the bloc on April 12 without a Brexit deal.

‘In view of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons, I have decided to call a European Council on 10 April,’ tweeted Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council. 

And European Commission secretary general Martin Selmayr – the right-hand man to president Jean-Claude Juncker – tweeted: ‘April 12 is now the new March 29 #Brexit.’

The 34 Tories who voted against and the five Labour MPs who backed the PM 

The 34 Conservative MPs who rebelled to vote against the motion were: 

Adam Afriyie (Windsor), Steve Baker (Wycombe), John Baron (Basildon and Billericay), Guto Bebb (Aberconwy), Peter Bone (Wellingborough), Suella Braverman (Fareham), Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire), William Cash (Stone), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East), Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford), Marcus Fysh (Yeovil), Justine Greening (Putney), Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield), Sam Gyimah (East Surrey), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), Adam Holloway (Gravesham), Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire), Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex), Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood), Joseph Johnson (Orpington), David Jones (Clwyd West), Phillip Lee (Bracknell), Julian Lewis (New Forest East), Julia Lopez (Hornchurch and Upminster), Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet), Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), Priti Patel (Witham), Owen Paterson (North Shropshire), John Redwood (Wokingham), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Andrew Rosindell (Romford), Lee Rowley (North East Derbyshire), Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet).

The five Labour MPs who voted for the Withdrawal Agreement motion were: 

Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse), Caroline Flint (Don Valley) and John Mann (Bassetlaw).

MPs reflecting on the defeat admitted that all Brexit options are on the table.

Brexiteer Michael Fabricant tweeted: ‘Withdrawal Agreement loses by 58 votes. The likelihood of a Customs Union now looms because of the #Remainer Parliament.’

Britain faces a hung Parliament if another general election is held

Sir John Curitce’s latest numbers suggest a near identical Commons would be returned – accept with slightly weaker Tory and Labour parties in a more hung parliament

If No 10 does call another general election Britain faces another hung Parliament, according to the latest polling on the issue.

The majority of public is also opposed to going back to the polls to break the Brexit deadlock at Westminster.

But Theresa May may be forced to call a possible snap general election within weeks if she loses because remainer MPs will try to force her to deliver a soft Brexit or a second referendum.

Now she has lost MPs are preparing to force a soft Brexit and long delay to leaving the EU upon May next week.

No 10 has threatened to call a general election rather than be forced into a soft Brexit – but looming over that threat is a new forecast of what might happen in a snap election by polling expert Sir John Curtice.   

But Sir John’s latest numbers suggest a near identical Commons would be returned – accept with slightly weaker Tory and Labour parties in a more hung parliament. 

The figures suggest even the dramatic step of a new general election would do little to break the stalemate.  

The PM hopes this bleak outlook will persuade Labour MPs to back it as the party has accepted the divorce deal – but she is set to be disappointed. She needs 75 more votes than she got on March 12 to win. 

Conservative MP Steve Brine, who quit as a health minister this week to fight a no-deal Brexit, told the BBC: ‘It is now coming to the endgame, and everything is back on the table, including revoke, including second referendum, including a general election.

‘I really do think all the options are on the table.’

Mr Brine urged ministers to listen to MPs’ decisions when they vote on Brexit options again on Monday.

‘If Parliament can come up with something as a consensus, it would be crazy to say ‘No, sorry, we will walk away with no deal’,’ he said.

Solicitor general Robert Buckland told the BBC: ‘The prospect of no Brexit is becoming a very real one indeed.’

Mr Buckland said that among MPs there had been ‘a lot of wishful thinking about being able to go back time and time again and not enough thinking about things from the EU’s point of view’.

He warned: ‘We can’t guarantee we will get a further extension. That very much depends on what the French and other countries think. We are in completely uncharted waters.’

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt tweeted: ‘Deeply saddened and disappointed by this result. The referendum decision must be implemented.

The British public and businesses want us to get this done now.’

The DUP has encouraged the Government to return to Brussels to deal with the backstop issue. 

Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said: ‘We deeply regret the numerous missed opportunities by those who negotiated on behalf of the UK to listen to our warnings about the dangers of the backstop and to take steps to remedy those deficiencies.

‘Over the coming weeks and months, we will continue to play a central role to chart a route that respects the democratic desire to leave the European Union but that does so in a way that strengthens our United Kingdom.’

Tory MP Nick Boles has shared on Twitter a motion he has lodged for what he calls ‘the Common Market 2.0’.

He captioned a picture of the motion: ‘A broad cross-party group including MPs from five parties and both Leavers and Remainers has just laid the Common Market 2.0 motion for Monday. No other compromise has the same breadth of support.’

Labour’s Hilary Benn, chairman of the Commons Brexit committee, said Mrs May had been defeated by a ‘considerable margin’, telling the Press Association: ‘The priority is to ensure that we don’t leave without a deal in 14 days’ time. And, therefore, we have to get an extension.’

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: ‘Third defeat for PM’s bad deal – she must now accept that it’s dead. The Commons will now return on Monday to find a way forward.

‘I hope that will be to put the issue back to the people and/or revoke Article 50 – but @theSNP will work with others to find the best option possible.’

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (right) opened the crunch Commons debate with Theresa May watching behind by telling MPs this is the 'last opportunity' to back the deal and cranking up the pressure he said: 'This should've been the day we left the European Union'

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (right) opened the crunch Commons debate with Theresa May watching behind by telling MPs this is the 'last opportunity' to back the deal and cranking up the pressure he said: 'This should've been the day we left the European Union'

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (right) opened the crunch Commons debate with Theresa May watching behind by telling MPs this is the ‘last opportunity’ to back the deal and cranking up the pressure he said: ‘This should’ve been the day we left the European Union’

MP Sammy Wilson said the party would not vote for it 'today or in the future', adding bluntly: 'Why would we vote today for a con trick that breaks up the United Kingdom?'.

MP Sammy Wilson said the party would not vote for it 'today or in the future', adding bluntly: 'Why would we vote today for a con trick that breaks up the United Kingdom?'.

Mrs May's hopes of getting her deal through are  hanging by a thread despite Brexiteer ringleader Dominic Raab deciding to back it at the 11th hour today

Mrs May's hopes of getting her deal through are  hanging by a thread despite Brexiteer ringleader Dominic Raab deciding to back it at the 11th hour today

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the party would not vote for it ‘today or in the future’, leaving Mrs May’s hopes of getting her deal through unlikely despite Brexiteer ringleader Dominic Raab deciding to back it at the 11th hour today

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox opened the crunch debate this morning by telling MPs this is the ‘last opportunity’ to back the deal and cranking up the pressure he said: ‘This should’ve been the day we left the European Union’.

Theresa May urged MPs to vote for her deal - accepting that it was a 'difficult decision' for Labour rebels and Brexiteers - but lost by 58 votes

Theresa May urged MPs to vote for her deal - accepting that it was a 'difficult decision' for Labour rebels and Brexiteers - but lost by 58 votes

Theresa May urged MPs to vote for her deal – accepting that it was a ‘difficult decision’ for Labour rebels and Brexiteers – but lost by 58 votes

The Prime Minister’s chances of her win had been boosted at 12.30pm when leading Tory Brexiteer Dominic Raab changed his mind and said he would back the PM – but her prospects of victory fell apart when the DUP said they wouldn’t back her. 

Mr Raab said this afternoon: ‘I cannot countenance another longer extension and cannot countenance holding European elections in May. I will vote for the motion’.

But the DUP deserted her and their Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson called May’s Brexit deal a ‘con trick’ in the Commons this afternoon.

Earlier, in a boost for Mrs May, Boris Johnson said he would back her and said: ‘It is very painful to vote for this deal. But I hope we can now work together to remedy its defects, avoid the backstop trap and strive to deliver the Brexit people voted for’.

Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith also revealed he will now support the Government and said: ‘If we say we stand up for 17.4 million people then we have to get those people what they asked for, to leave the EU. This now is the only way’.

Most observers expected May to lose the vote by around 50 because the 10 DUP MPs and more than 25 hardcore Brexiteer rebels were expected to vote against her.

Brexiteers held firm with ERG member Mark Francois saying today he will never back the deal, adding: ‘You can’t hold your nose when you are holding your hands up and surrendering’.

And Labour rebels were unwilling rescue the PM’s deal with potential switcher Lisa Nandy saying Mrs May’s resignation pact with Boris Johnson and Brexiteers l. Melanie Onn also ruled it out because of the upcoming Tory leadership battle and said: ‘Which Donkey would we be pinning our tail to?’ 

Mrs May’s mission was made even harder when Speaker John Bercow ruled out any amendments today – including a plan from some Labour MPs seeking to guarantee Parliament a role in the trade talks phase of negotiations. It could have swung some votes to the PM’s deal. 

A Whitehall source said another defeat for the Prime Minister’s deal could see Brexit delayed for up to five years.

‘Once you have taken part in the European elections, there is no limit on the number of extensions you could have during the lifetime of the parliament,’ they said.     

Today International Trade Secretary Liam Fox warned that voters would feel ‘betrayed’ if the deal was not passed and Brexit was not delivered, opening a ‘chasm of distrust’ between voters and the political system.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This is a great historic moment for our country, this is about whether Parliament does what Parliament wants or whether Parliament does what the people want. I fear for the consequences if Parliament chooses to utterly ignore a promise that they made directly to the voters.’   

Mrs May is now likely to have to return to the EU to seek another, longer delay – guaranteeing we would elect MEPs. 

Conservative former leader Iain Duncan Smith said he would back the motion to get Brexit going, warning a longer extension on April 12 would mean the UK ‘will never leave’ the EU.

He said: ‘We are in a chamber of people who really don’t want to leave the European Union at all and I know and honour my friends who have fought and campaigned to get this changed. 

‘If we say we stand up for 17.4 million people then we have to get those people what they asked for – to leave the European Union and this now is the only way.’  

Ministers hope the symbolism of MPs voting on the day the UK was originally due to leave the European Union will pile pressure on opponents of the deal to back down. They also believe the public would blame MPs for blocking Brexit.

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray (L) and pro-Brexit campaigner Joseph Afrane go nose-to-nose outside Parliament on the day Britain was due to leave the EU

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray (L) and pro-Brexit campaigner Joseph Afrane go nose-to-nose outside Parliament on the day Britain was due to leave the EU

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray (L) and pro-Brexit campaigner Joseph Afrane go nose-to-nose outside Parliament on the day Britain was due to leave the EU

Police are surrounding thousands of Brexit supporters in Parliament today - March 29 - the day Britain was meant to leave the EU

Police are surrounding thousands of Brexit supporters in Parliament today - March 29 - the day Britain was meant to leave the EU

Police are surrounding thousands of Brexit supporters in Parliament today – March 29 – the day Britain was meant to leave the EU

Pro-Brexit leave the European Union supporters take part in the final leg of the "March to Leave" as it arrives in Westminster after a 200-mile journey

Pro-Brexit leave the European Union supporters take part in the final leg of the "March to Leave" as it arrives in Westminster after a 200-mile journey

Pro-Brexit leave the European Union supporters take part in the final leg of the ‘March to Leave’ as it arrives in Westminster after a 200-mile journey

Pro-Brexit demonstrators carry placards and Union flags as they gather in Parliament Square

Pro-Brexit demonstrators carry placards and Union flags as they gather in Parliament Square

Pro-Brexit demonstrators carry placards and Union flags as they gather in Parliament Square

Pro-Brexit protesters take part in the March to Leave demonstration, as they walk along the River Thames with many holding 'Believe in Britain' banners

Pro-Brexit protesters take part in the March to Leave demonstration, as they walk along the River Thames with many holding 'Believe in Britain' banners

Pro-Brexit protesters take part in the March to Leave demonstration, as they walk along the River Thames with many holding ‘Believe in Britain’ banners

Tory MPs have openly admitted that unless today's deal is passed they will have 'betrayed' those who voted for Brexit

Tory MPs have openly admitted that unless today's deal is passed they will have 'betrayed' those who voted for Brexit

Tory MPs have openly admitted that unless today’s deal is passed they will have ‘betrayed’ those who voted for Brexit

Remainer MPs who quit Labour and the Tories will register as a new party called Change UK in time for Euro elections in June

The Independent Group set up by MPs who defected from Labour and the Conservatives has applied to register as a political party in order to be able to fight European elections if they take place this year.

The group will stand under the party label Change UK – The Independent Group if polls are held on May 23.

Former Conservative Heidi Allen (pictured last night)   has been selected as interim leader of the new party.

The UK will have to stage elections to the European Parliament as a condition of any further delay to Brexit.

Defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May in a vote on her Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons on Friday would greatly increase the likelihood of an application on April 12 for a long extension to the Brexit process.

In order to stand candidates in the European polls, conducted on a regional proportional representation system, any group must be registered as a political party with the European Commission.

Ms Allen said: ‘Today marks a huge step forward on The Independent Group’s journey to becoming a fully-fledged political party, so I am delighted to have been chosen as our interim leader.

‘If we are to deliver on our ambition to change politics for the better, it is vital that we attract support from people from every walk of life, every political background and none.

‘Coming into the House of Commons from running my manufacturing business in 2015, I have seen with my own eyes how improved our political system would be if it harnessed the diverse skills and experience of our country.

‘We in Change UK, as we hope to be known, don’t just dream about a fairer and better future for our country, we are determined to unleash it through hard work, passion and shared endeavour.’

TIG spokesman Chuka Umunna said Change UK would aim to put forward a ‘substantial’ number of MEP candidates with backgrounds from outside politics.

‘There is clearly an appetite for an alternative to our broken politics which needs fundamental change, as shown by the disastrous Brexit process which has occurred under the watch of the two main parties,’ said Mr Umunna.

Commons Speaker John Bercow, who had threatened to block a third vote on Mrs May’s deal unless it was ‘substantially’ different, last night approved the vote, saying the decision to split the deal met his test.

But senior Tories acknowledge they face an uphill battle. 

Mrs May’s DUP allies last night said they would vote against the deal, despite days of frantic negotiations to win them round. 

And despite Mrs May offering to resign before the second stage of Brexit talks, only a trickle of Tory Eurosceptics have switched sides.

MPs will today vote only on the withdrawal agreement, which sets out the separation terms. 

They will not vote on the ‘political declaration’, which sets out the Government’s vision for a close economic partnership outside both the customs union and single market. 

The two documents have previously been bundled together.

Until now, Labour has objected to only the political declaration.

Justice minister Rory Stewart acknowledged that, with a bunch of hardline Eurosceptics dubbed ‘the Spartans’ still holding out, the Government would need the backing of some Labour MPs. 

He said: ‘What happens depends on Labour. The Labour front bench has said their problem is with the political declaration, not the withdrawal agreement. There is no reason for them to oppose it.’

But former minister Richard Benyon said Tory hardliners also had to face the reality that if they continue to reject the deal they will face a soft Brexit – or risk not leaving the EU at all. 

He added: ‘They need to recognise that there will be a softer Brexit if they don’t help get this through. And tough on them, frankly.’

Whitehall sources had acknowledged that the odds are stacked against her winning today’s vote. 

And she is running out of options. MPs are due to seize control of the parliamentary agenda again on Monday in the hope of identifying a majority for options such as a customs union or a second referendum.

Mrs May has said she will not accept options that breach the last Tory manifesto. 

One ally of Mrs May said she would have little choice but to call an election, as pursuing a customs union would tear the Tories apart.

As senior Tories began campaigning to replace Mrs May as party leader, one Cabinet minister raged last night: ‘Everyone is building leadership campaigns and just looking at the prize.  But no one is doing anything to get the deal done.

‘There’s going to be nothing left! They’re going to be fighting to be leader of the opposition.’

British Prime Minister Theresa May heads for the House of Commons today where she faces a third attempt to get her meaningful vote through

British Prime Minister Theresa May heads for the House of Commons today where she faces a third attempt to get her meaningful vote through

British Prime Minister Theresa May heads for the House of Commons today where she faces a third attempt to get her meaningful vote through 

John Bercow delivered another blow to the Tories by blocking an amendment from Labour MPs that could have swing behind the deal.

John Bercow delivered another blow to the Tories by blocking an amendment from Labour MPs that could have swing behind the deal.

John Bercow delivered another blow to the Tories by blocking an amendment from Labour MPs that could have swing behind the deal. Mrs May is widely expected to be defeated

Iain Duncan-Smith (pictured arriving at Parliament) says he backs the deal because the 'balance of risk has changed' and told the Commons: 'We are in a chamber of MPs who don't want to leave the EU at all'

Iain Duncan-Smith (pictured arriving at Parliament) says he backs the deal because the 'balance of risk has changed' and told the Commons: 'We are in a chamber of MPs who don't want to leave the EU at all'

Iain Duncan-Smith (pictured arriving at Parliament) says he backs the deal because the ‘balance of risk has changed’ and told the Commons: ‘We are in a chamber of MPs who don’t want to leave the EU at all’

Boris Johnson flip-flops again by saying he WILL vote for May’s deal a day after calling it ‘DEAD’ – but will Dominic Raab fold too in jockeying for position in Tory leadership race?

Boris Johnson confirmed today he had taken the ‘painful’ decision to vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal as the rivals to replace her jostle for position.

The Vote Leave leader said he would back the deal to stop Brexit being halted altogether despite spending months condemning the package. He branded it ‘dead’ as recently as yesterday. 

Mr Johnson is one of a raft of Brexiteer contenders for the Tory leadership after Mrs May admitted on Wednesday night she would resign if the deal gets over the line. 

How the leading candidates split on the deal today will be keenly watched for signals of how the Tory race will play out. The hardline European Research Group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg is thought likely to back a single candidate. 

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had been expected to vote against the deal for a third time in a stark contrast with Mr Johnson. There are reports he could flip.

Other leading contenders on the backbenches include Esther McVey. A raft of candidates inside Government are under orders to vote for Mrs May’s deal today.  

Boris Johnson confirmed today he had taken the 'painful' decision to vote for Theresa May's Brexit deal as the rivals to replace her jostle for position

Boris Johnson confirmed today he had taken the 'painful' decision to vote for Theresa May's Brexit deal as the rivals to replace her jostle for position

Boris Johnson confirmed today he had taken the ‘painful’ decision to vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal as the rivals to replace her jostle for position

As debate on the deal began again today the Vote Leave leader said he would back the deal to stop Brexit being halted altogether despite spending months condemning the package

As debate on the deal began again today the Vote Leave leader said he would back the deal to stop Brexit being halted altogether despite spending months condemning the package

As debate on the deal began again today the Vote Leave leader said he would back the deal to stop Brexit being halted altogether despite spending months condemning the package

As today’s debate began Mr Johnson wrote on Twitter: ‘I have been and remain intensely critical of the deal. But we have a choice to make now, and that means choosing between options that actually exist.

‘I have come to the sad conclusion that neither this Government nor this Parliament is willing to leave with no deal.

‘We therefore run the risk of being forced to accept an even worse version of Brexit or losing Brexit altogether.

‘A bad deal that we have a chance to improve in the next stage of negotiations must be better than those alternatives.

‘It is very painful to vote for this deal. But I hope we can now work together to remedy its defects, avoid the backstop trap and strive to deliver the Brexit people voted for.’

Overnight Brexiteer MPs backing Mr Raab accused his rival of ‘flipping’ at the last minute and showing ‘poor judgment’ after Mr Johnson announced he was backing the Prime Minister’s deal.

One MP said: ‘It’s a massive cock up, isn’t it? It doesn’t show very good judgment, does it? Boris backs a deal he might not even get to vote on. 

Imagine being the standard bearer for the Eurosceptics then flipping at the last minute to back the deal. One up for Dom, one down for Boris.’

A raft of candidates inside Government such as Michael Gove (pictured arriving in Parliament today) are under orders to vote for Mrs May's deal today

A raft of candidates inside Government such as Michael Gove (pictured arriving in Parliament today) are under orders to vote for Mrs May's deal today

A raft of candidates inside Government such as Michael Gove (pictured arriving in Parliament today) are under orders to vote for Mrs May’s deal today

Meanwhile, supporters of Michael Gove suggested he might have as many as 50 MPs signed up to back him.

One minister said the Environment Secretary was someone with ‘impeccable Leave credentials’ who had also ‘bothered to reach out to Remainers’.

According to Paddy Power, Mr Gove is the favourite to be next Tory leader at 7/2, followed by Mr Johnson (4/1), Jeremy Hunt (8/1), Mr Raab (8/1), Sajid Javid (12/1) and Matt Hancock (18/1).

Last night Mr Johnson appeared to win the backing of Donald Trump. In a response to a question about the Tory leadership battle and Brexit, the President replied: ‘I like Boris Johnson a lot. He’s a friend of mine.’

Mr Johnson revealed his change of heart on the withdrawal agreement at a meeting of the European Research Group of MPs on Tuesday night, just minutes after Theresa May said she was prepared to step down as leader if her deal passed the Commons. 

He had previously described the deal as a ‘suicide vest’ but now fears Brexit may be lost altogether and doesn’t want to be blamed if it is.

Former Brexit secretary Mr Raab is among a small group of 30 to 40 Tory Eurosceptics refusing to fall in line, and yesterday he endorsed a so-called ‘managed’ No Deal.

Mr Raab told Sky News that Mrs May should go back to Brussels and demand a ‘legally-binding’ exit from the backstop and if that didn’t work she should discuss how to manage a No Deal Brexit.

Former Brexit secretary Mr Raab is among a small group of 30 to 40 Tory Eurosceptics refusing to fall in line

Speaking outside his home in Surrey, he said: ‘I think this is a time for pragmatism and realism.

One thing I would like to see is us go back to the EU again, keep the arm of friendship open, explain that there is still time for an exchange of letters providing a legally-binding exit from the backstop. 

I know a lot of people will say, well, the EU just won’t move; that’s been treated as a fixture of these negotiations, rather than being tested.

It was also claimed Home Secretary Mr Javid (pictured in Downing Street) had floated the idea of a 'dream ticket' with him as Prime Minister and Mr Gove as Chancellor

It was also claimed Home Secretary Mr Javid (pictured in Downing Street) had floated the idea of a 'dream ticket' with him as Prime Minister and Mr Gove as Chancellor

It was also claimed Home Secretary Mr Javid (pictured in Downing Street) had floated the idea of a ‘dream ticket’ with him as Prime Minister and Mr Gove as Chancellor

‘But if they still don’t move, I think we should have sensible conversations over the two weeks we’ve got left over the suite of No Deal arrangements that can be made to mitigate any of the potential damage on either side, to European jobs and livelihoods, but also to UK jobs and livelihoods.’

An ally of Mr Johnson said: ‘His position is the same. He is going to vote for the deal. If it doesn’t go through he’s not going to get the blame.’

Asked about Mr Raab’s intervention, he said: ‘Apart from the ERG I don’t know who you’re impressing.’

A report yesterday suggested Mr Johnson had told friends the deal was ‘dead’ despite his last-minute conversion. Sources close to Mr Johnson denied the claim. 

Meanwhile, other potential candidates were also gearing up their campaigns. Allies of Health Secretary Mr Hancock were yesterday calling MPs to sound out whether they might support him.

It was also claimed Home Secretary Mr Javid had floated the idea of a ‘dream ticket’ with him as Prime Minister and Mr Gove as Chancellor.

The idea, which was dismissed out of hand by Mr Javid’s friends, would be used to shut Mr Johnson out of Downing Street, it was said.

A senior Tory source described the idea as a ‘grown-up and sensible solution’ that would bring ‘stability’ at the top of the party, adding: ‘We know Michael Gove’s limitations in terms of public appeal.

Sajid Javid has broad support around the country, the polling evidence proves that. And the fact that he has a back story that no one else in the party has.’

In a speech to business chiefs yesterday, Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss endorsed the idea of securing a Canada-style trade deal – based on the free trade agreement negotiated between the EU and Canada – in the second round of the negotiations.

Miss Truss, who backed Remain, told the British Chambers of Commerce conference: ‘I’m a free trader, I believe that we need to open our economy to the rest of the world.’

Remainer MPs will push a combined customs union and second referendum next week that they claim WILL get support from a majority of MPs

Rebel MPs will attempt to change the law within days to force Theresa May into accepting a softer Brexit – or even a second referendum – if her deal is rejected again today.

Backbenchers led by Sir Oliver Letwin will take control of the Commons timetable on Monday for a second round of indicative votes on alternatives to her plan.

A first attempt ended in deadlock this week after none of the eight options put to MPs secured a majority.

However, a plan to stay in a customs union was narrowly defeated by just six votes, while a proposal for a second referendum lost by 27. 

The rebels last night revealed plans to take control again next Wednesday so that if a majority emerges on Monday they can put through legislation forcing ministers to act.

If they are successful it would put them on a collision course with the Government and could precipitate a general election.

Former cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin (pictured yesterday) will take control of the Commons timetable on Monday for a second round of indicative votes on alternatives to her plan - pushing Britain towards a softer Brexit

Former cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin (pictured yesterday) will take control of the Commons timetable on Monday for a second round of indicative votes on alternatives to her plan - pushing Britain towards a softer Brexit

Former cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin (pictured yesterday) will take control of the Commons timetable on Monday for a second round of indicative votes on alternatives to her plan – pushing Britain towards a softer Brexit

Cross-party groups of MPs were last night meeting to discuss how they could adapt the eight proposals in a bid to find a compromise that can command the support of the House.

Tory former Cabinet minister Ken Clarke, who drew up the customs union plan defeated by 271 votes to 265, said he was ‘reasonably confident’ it would get over the line if the Commons does not pass the Prime Minister’s deal today.

He told Sky News: ‘We are very near, we lost by [six] votes. We will have another go on Monday. We will be able to get it through if the House goes dotty and rejects the withdrawal agreement again.’

Sir Oliver, the architect of the indicative votes process, said MPs would be looking for a Plan B to avoid No Deal if Mrs May’s deal fails to secure enough support.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘At some point or other we either have to get her deal across the line or accept we have to find some alternative if we want to avoid No Deal on April 12.

‘At the moment we are heading for a situation where, under the law, we leave without a deal… which many of us think is not a good solution.

‘Of course, the issue is – and nobody knows the answer to this yet – whether we can get to the point where Parliament has a majority in favour of an alternative on Monday.’

These are the results of last night's indicative votes on Brexit, in order of preference. It shows that while MPs can't find a consensus they lean heavily towards a softer Brexit or second referendum

These are the results of last night's indicative votes on Brexit, in order of preference. It shows that while MPs can't find a consensus they lean heavily towards a softer Brexit or second referendum

These are the results of last night’s indicative votes on Brexit, in order of preference. It shows that while MPs can’t find a consensus they lean heavily towards a softer Brexit or second referendum 

Sir Oliver, who backed the Prime Minister’s deal in both meaningful votes, added: ‘MPs will be voting on the basis of seeing what happened last time. And something else will have happened, which is that either the Prime Minister will have got her deal through on Friday, in which case all this is unnecessary and I’ll be breaking open the bottle of champagne. If it doesn’t then I think people will finally see that isn’t going to happen by April 12.

‘I think quite a lot of Tories who didn’t vote for any of the options because they were, perfectly honourably, taking the view that until they had a last chance to vote for the Prime Minister’s deal they didn’t want to commit themselves to anything else, may come round and say, ‘OK, we’ll choose among these options.’ 

Ministers have warned that a general election may have to be called if MPs try to force the Prime Minister into accepting a proposal that contradicts the Tory manifesto, which ruled out membership of the single market and customs union.

But Damian Green, her former de facto deputy, last night warned: ‘If this is the will of Parliament, any Government has to obey it.’

And Mr Clarke said there would be a ‘major constitutional crisis’ if ministers ignored a Commons majority for a Brexit alternative.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: If we don’t back the Prime Minister’s deal, the EU’s got us over a barrel

Yes, Theresa May‘s deal is very flawed. But after much reflection, I have reluctantly reached the conclusion that when we MPs debate it again today, I should support it. I urge my fellow members of the European Research Group to do so, too.

Previously, I voted against the deal because I have passionately wanted Britain to get better terms, particularly on the Backstop.

However, as a result of some inept negotiation, that has sadly not been the case. We have therefore been left with a difficult choice.

My concern is that if we don’t approve the Prime Minister’s EU withdrawal deal, Brussels will have Britain over a barrel. Westminster would be obliged to come up with an alternative exit proposal by April 12.

I urge my fellow members of the European Research Group to do so, too, writes Iain Duncan Smith

I urge my fellow members of the European Research Group to do so, too, writes Iain Duncan Smith

I urge my fellow members of the European Research Group to do so, too, writes Iain Duncan Smith

If that happens, I am convinced that the overwhelmingly Remainer majority in the Commons would try to force through a much softer Brexit, and possibly no Brexit at all.

Javid and Gove consider ‘stop Boris’ joint bid for Tory leadership after May

Sajid Javid is floating the idea of a ‘dream ticket’ with Michael Gove as Chancellor that could see him become Prime Minister and would also shut Boris Johnson out of Downing Street, MailOnline can reveal.

The pair are mulling whether Jeremy Hunt could be offered Home Secretary to drop his candidacy as part of the pact, while fellow Brexiteers Penny Mordaunt and Andrea Leadsom could also be handed promotions to fall into line, allies of Mr Javid have suggested.

The ‘Stop Boris’ plot came as Mr Johnson – who is joint-favourite with Mr Gove to be the next Tory leader – backed Mrs May’s Brexit deal only to pronounce it ‘dead’ hours later.

The Prime Minister on Wednesday offered to sacrifice her leadership to win rebel Tories’ backing for her deal, saying she will quit on May 22 if her deal passes this week.

If the deal does not pass on Friday, May could stay and Brexit will thrown into chaos with rebel MPs trying to force a softer exit from the EU and ministers threatening to call an election.

But Boris is now reportedly insisting Mrs May steps down even if her deal fails. MailOnline can reveal there are genuine fears that unless Mr Johnson’s rivals agree a deal ahead of a leadership campaign their support could splinter, opening the door for the former Foreign Secretary to take over. 

As many as eight Cabinet ministers are expected to put their names forward and several are already out on manoeuvres today with former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab positioning himself as the No Deal candidate.

Speaking on Thursday he said Mrs May should return to Brussels and demand they reopen negotiations so Britain can achieve a ‘legally-binding exit from the Irish backstop’.

He added: ‘I think we should have sensible conversations over the two weeks we’ve got left around the suite of No Deal arrangements that can be made to mitigate any of the potential damage on either side’. 

Not only that. The other 27 national EU leaders now have the power to respond by making it tougher for Britain by demanding an extension to Article 50. This could mean us staying in the EU for another two years and British voters taking part in the European Parliament elections in May.  

If I believed there was a scintilla of a chance that we could leave the EU with no deal, then I would not vote for Mrs May’s deal today. But the brutal fact is that there isn’t.

There are those who argue that the EU won’t offer us an extension to Article 50 because they just want us out. But I don’t agree.

As Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel have made clear, they want Britain to stay and they do not want a No Deal exit.

You only have to look at who, in this country, is arguing for an extension to Article 50 to understand the true threat. They include Tony Blair, who, in recent weeks, has reportedly been briefing France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, on how to force Britain to stay in the EU.

Blair has made it clear that he wants a long extension, for one simple reason: He knows it’s a means of stopping Brexit.

While there is much wrong with the Government’s deal, it will allow Britain to leave the EU – even if we voluntarily accept the EU’s rules and regulations during an implementation period.

Repealing the 1972 European Community Act at least means, too, that under a new Conservative leader, we would be able to enter trade talks, which are the next stage of the process, with renewed vigour and confidence as a nation. We would be a sovereign nation again.

Above all, we would be able to achieve the kind of settlement that could lead our country out of the mire of protracted Brexit negotiations, which have meant paralysis at Westminster, and towards a bright and prosperous future.

What happens next? JACK DOYLE answers all the questions on May’s last chance to get her Brexit deal over the line

What happens today?

MPs will vote on the Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement. This is the vast, legally binding treaty that deals with the exit part of Brexit and contains the money – about £39 billion – the ‘transition period’ to the end of 2020, and the rights of EU citizens and UK citizens on the continent.

How is this different from previous votes?

The first two times Mrs May put her deal to the Commons, MPs were also voting to approve the so-called ‘political declaration’. This sets out the likely shape of the future relationships between the EU and the UK on trade, immigration and security.

Why has she now separated the two?

Short answer: Speaker Bercow. Invoking ancient Commons rules, he declared last week that the Government could not bring back the same motion before the Commons again and again. This threw a grenade into Downing Street’s strategy. After talks with Attorney General Geoffrey Cox yesterday, he agreed to the new plan. There is also a political reason: to heap pressure on Labour to let Brexit pass. Will the party – and all its MPs in Leave seats – which pledged to respect the referendum result once again vote against Brexit on the day we were originally meant to be leaving?

These are the results of the indicative votes on Brexit, in order of preference. It shows that while MPs can't find a consensus they lean heavily towards a softer Brexit or second referendum

These are the results of the indicative votes on Brexit, in order of preference. It shows that while MPs can't find a consensus they lean heavily towards a softer Brexit or second referendum

These are the results of the indicative votes on Brexit, in order of preference. It shows that while MPs can’t find a consensus they lean heavily towards a softer Brexit or second referendum 

Why do it today?

It’s near enough a last roll of the dice. Mrs May might have preferred to take a few more days to rally her MPs but she is up against a fixed deadline, and also has some momentum in her own party. When the EU agreed last week to extend Article 50 – and delay Britain’s Brexit date – it set her a target of 11pm tonight. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by then, she would have until May 22 to pass the rest of it, and related Brexit legislation, and get out. If not, the extension to Brexit is only until April 12, less than two weeks away.

What are the chances of success?

Slim at best. The DUP has already announced it will vote against it. Despite the best efforts of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who was drafted in to try to win the Unionists over, they don’t appear to be budging. Labour will tell its MPs to vote against, calling the proposal ‘the blindest of blind Brexits’, even though the party has accepted in principle the need for the withdrawal agreement and its claim to respect the referendum result. There are also about 50 hardline Brexiteer Tory MPs who are refusing to back the deal. But Labour MPs in Leave seats will come under huge pressure to vote in favour or abstain.

What happens if it passes?

We wouldn’t be guaranteed to leave in an orderly fashion, but it would be a huge step forward. That is a victory ministers would bite your hand off for. The next hurdle would be actually getting the agreement into law via the Withdrawal Act, as well as the political declaration, not to mention any other Brexit legislation – all before May. If Parliament doesn’t manage this, or request another extension, Britain would leave with No Deal, and no transition, on May 22.

What if it doesn’t pass?

The chaos continues, and the ticking clock gets louder. They could try to have another go next week, but they would be up against a near-impossible April 12 deadline. As Parliament won’t allow No Deal, the UK would be forced to go back to the EU cap in hand to ask for a longer extension of at least a year. That would mean the UK would take part in European Parliament elections in May. Mrs May has repeatedly said she would not swallow a Brexit delay beyond June.

What about this week’s ‘indicative’ votes?

Another key factor. After the process of voting on alternative Brexit options orchestrated by Sir Oliver Letwin failed to find an answer on Wednesday, he’s going to have another go too. On Monday, expect all the alternatives to be put back before MPs – a customs union, a second referendum, the ‘Norway model’ and No Deal. If one passes – and customs union appears to be the only real runner – MPs plan to pass legislation on Wednesday to compel Mrs May to do what they say.

What happens then?

If the Commons agrees to a customs union Brexit, she faces a gruesome choice. Could she really accept something which contradicts her manifesto and delivers a Brexit she knows is worse than hers, and would rip the Tory Party into pieces? Could she try to ‘prorogue’ Parliament – ending the session, suspending the Commons for a few days then coming back to have another go at her deal and killing off any customs union law in the process? Or could she hit the last emergency button at her disposal, and call a General Election?

PM ‘could stay if she loses vote’

Theresa May could ‘soldier on’ in Downing Street indefinitely if her Brexit deal is defeated, a close ally said yesterday.

In a dramatic gamble on Wednesday night, she told Tory MPs she was ready to quit this summer if her twice-defeated Brexit deal is finally approved in in the Commons.

Using that timetable she would resign as Tory leader on May 23, remaining as PM only until the party selects a new leader.

Damian Green, who served as Mrs May’s deputy, predicted she would try to cling on, at least until Britain’s divorce from the EU is finalised

Damian Green, who served as Mrs May’s deputy, predicted she would try to cling on, at least until Britain’s divorce from the EU is finalised

Damian Green, who served as Mrs May’s deputy, predicted she would try to cling on, at least until Britain’s divorce from the EU is finalised

But Downing Street indicated that her offer applied only if her deal gets through in the coming weeks. 

And Damian Green, who served as Mrs May’s deputy, predicted she would try to cling on, at least until Britain’s divorce from the EU is finalised.

With speculation mounting that the Brexit crisis could spark a snap election, Mrs May could even find herself leading the Tories into another poll.

Mr Green, a friend of Mrs May’s since university days, said: ‘She will take the path of soldiering on because she sees the great duty of her and her Government is to get a Brexit deal. She will carry on for as long as she is Prime Minister doing that.

‘Absolutely the last thing the country would need now would be a Prime Minister who walked away and said ‘OK, choose someone else’. This is very serious.’

Addressing the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs on Wednesday night, the Prime Minister acknowledged there was ‘a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and I won’t stand in the way of that’.

She was silent on what would happen if her deal failed to get through for a third time.

What sort of Brexit DO MPs want? Commons shows support for a second referendum, a customs union and Labour’s plan for a soft Brexit but with no clear majority for any option

The backbench plot to snatch control of Brexit hit a wall on Wednesday as none of the alternatives to Theresa May’s deal secured a majority – but MPs still showed Britain they favour a softer Brexit or a second referendum – and will never deliver No Deal.  

On Wednesday evening, in an unprecedented move, politicians seized control of the Commons timetable from Theresa May to hold so-called indicative votes.

The poll showed Parliament is close to agreeing on a soft Brexit with a plan for the UK remaining in a customs union with the EU defeated by 272 votes to 264, while a second referendum was rejected by 295 votes to 268. 

MPs were handed green ballot papers on which they voted Yes or No to eight options, ranging from No Deal to cancelling Brexit altogether. However, the votes descended into shambles as MPs rejected each and every one of the proposals – although its architect Sir Oliver Letwin always warned there wouldn’t be a winner first time.

Ten Tories – including ministers Sir Alan Duncan, Mark Field and Stephen Hammond – supported an SNP plan to give MPs the chance to revoke Article 50 if a deal has not been agreed two days before Brexit. Some 60 Tory MPs backed the option of remaining in the single market.

The results of Wednesday’s votes, in order of preference, were: 

  • Confirmatory public vote (second referendum) – defeated by 295 voted to 268, majority 27. 
  • Customs union – defeated by 272 votes to 264, majority eight. 
  • Labour’s alternative plan – defeated by 307 votes to 237, majority 70. 
  • Revocation to avoid no-deal – defeated by 293 votes to 184, majority 109. 
  • Common market 2.0: defeated by 283 votes to 188, majority 95. 
  • No Deal: defeated by 400 votes to 160, majority 240. 
  • Contingent preferential arrangements – defeated by 422 votes to 139, majority 283.
  • Efta and EEA: defeated by 377 votes to 65, majority 312. 

Shadow housing minister Melanie Onn resigned after Jeremy Corbyn ordered his MPs to back a raft of soft Brexit plans, as well as a second referendum.

Some 27 Labour MPs defied the whip to reject a so-called ‘confirmatory vote’ on any Brexit deal. The party had instructed them to support the plan just hours after one of its senior frontbenchers publicly warned that it would be a mistake.

Sir Oliver Letwin, the architect of the Commons move, on Thursday insisted the indicative votes were not intended to give a precise answer right away – and will hold another round of votes on Monday. 

MPs are due to hold a second round of votes – unless Mrs May can get her deal through first – after none of the eight options debated on Wednesday was able to command a majority. It could be that the eight options are cut down to the most popular.

Sir Oliver told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘At some point or other we either have to get her deal across the line or accept that we have to find some alternative if we want to avoid no deal on the 12th, which I think at the moment is the most likely thing to happen.

‘At the moment we are heading for a situation where, under the law, we leave without a deal on the 12th, which many of us think is not a good solution, and the question is ‘Is Parliament on Monday willing to come to any view in the majority about that way forward that doesn’t involve that result?”

MPs will take control of the Commons order paper again on Monday, so they can narrow down the options if Mrs May’s deal has not been agreed by then – or pass legislation to try and impose their choice on her. Speaking in the Commons after the results, Sir Oliver said: ‘It is of course a great disappointment that the House has not chosen to find a majority for any proposition.

‘However, those of us who put this proposal forward as a way of proceeding predicted that we would not even reach a majority and for that very reason put forward a … motion designed to reconsider these matters on Monday.’

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