LONDON – Members of Parliament tonight voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal after weeks of debate and delay.
MPs finally voted on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday evening after the prime minister postponed the so-called meaningful vote last month amid fears of a huge defeat.
Despite assurances from May and the European Union on the most controversial aspects of the deal, specifically the Northern Irish backstop, MPs inflicted a historic defeat on the bill of over 200 votes.
Now, May’s deal has fallen, the big question will be what the prime minister will do next. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party tabled a motion of no confidence in the government immediately aftwrwards.
Scroll down for the latest developments in a historic day in British politics. All times are in GMT.
20:35: Jeremy Corbyn’s no-confidence vote seems destined to fail.
Jeremy Corbyn has called a vote of no-confidence in Theresa May – but it seems unlikely to succeed.
Despite widespread revolts from her own party, Conservative MPs are expected to back her in the vote. The European Research Group (ERG), a key group of Tory brexiteers, has said it will vote for her, as has the DUP, whose votes help prop up May’s government. Boris Johnson also says he will vote in support of May, despite their enmity.
Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesperson, however, has hinted the party may launch multiple no-confidences votes. “In due course they will fail,” they said.
20:25: Number 10 is calling for talks with other parties.
In a press briefing on Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said that Downing Street is inviting the other parties to talks to find a way forward. Principles in the talks will be a “smooth and orderly deal” with an “indpendent trade policy.”
May will speak to “senior parliamentarians” about the way forward, the spokesperson said.
20:18: So…. what now?
May’s Brexit deal in tatters, Corbyn calling for a no-confidence vote he likely can’t win … what happens next?
The short answer: Brexit will almost certainly be delayed.As Business Insider’s Adam Bienkov explains:
It is just about possible to imagine a set of circumstances in which May persuaded enough of her own MPs and enough Labour MPs scared about the prospect of a no-deal, to eventually back a modified version of her deal.
It is also just about possible to imagine how she could then convert that support into a Brexit Withdrawal Bill that could survive its passage through both houses of parliament.
Similarly, it is possible that other necessary legislation on immigration, customs, trade and finance, could also all eventually win majority support in the Commons.
However, with just two and a half months left to go, it is all but impossible to imagine how May will be able to do all of this before March 29.
That means she will need to seek an extension from the EU to Article 50, meaning that Brexit will not take place on March 29.
20:05: Theresa May’s government wants to work with MPs to find a solution.
After her brutal defeat, Theresa May’s government has a message for MPs: Let us work with you.
Speaking to Sky News in the aftermath of the vote, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government would try to work with other MPs, including opposition parties and the DUP, to try and find a solution.
“Clearly we’re going to have to discuss the way forward with others in Parliament,” the minister said.
He also shot down the idea that May should resign as Prime Minister: “Certainly not, I think that would be a mistake.”
19:48: Jeremy Corbyn tables vote of no confidence in Theresa May’s government.
Jeremy Corbyn has wasted no time after Theresa May’s historic defeat, and has formally tabled a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister’s government. It will be debated on Wednesday.
19:40: Theresa May’s Brexit deal is defeated in historic vote.
Theresa May’s Brexit deal was utterly rejected by Parliament, losing 202 to 432. It’s a historic defeat for a government, the like of which has not been seen in a century.
19:25: John Baron’s backstop amendment crushed
The only amendment to the main motion, tabled by Brexiteer John Baron, was just crushed by 600 votes to 24.
The amendment called for Theresa May to change the terms of the backstop measure for Northern Ireland. It didn’t attract much support. One MP could be heard uttering “for goodness sake” after the result was announced.
Now voting on May’s deal is taking place. Keep an eye on our homepage for the result.
19:20: The pound is diving ahead of parliament’s crucial Brexit vote
The pound is diving ahead of the almost certain defeat of Theresa May’s deal.
It was down 1.2% against the dollar at 19:00, Business Insider’s Will Martin reports.
19:00: BIG SURPRISE — Three MPs including Corbyn decide not to move amendments
Big surprise. Three MPs – Jeremy Corbyn, SNP Westminster leader Blackford, and Conservative Brexiteer Sir Edward Leigh – have declined to move their amendments. Why? They want a clean vote directly on the PM’s vote uncluttered by any amendments.
Only a single amendment will now be voted on, tabled by Brexit-supporting Tory MP John Baron. It says the deal should be approved only if the UK has the right to unilaterally exit the backstop without the agreement of the EU.
This all means that we will have the result of the historic vote earlier than expected, probably some time between 19:30 and 19:45.
18:50: Has May dropped a resignation hint?
May tells MPs she has “ruled out” all other options and says her only option is winning “tonight.” So will she resign if she loses?
Don’t bet on it. Most of her colleagues expect her to carry on serving as PM even if she suffers a big defeat tonight.
18:40: Theresa May is up in the House of Commons.
“This is an historic decision that will set the future of this country for generations,” she says.
She says some MPs think rejecting the deal will force the government to renegotiate a better deal in Brussels. But the EU isn’t willing to do that, she says.
18:37: Jeremy Corbyn is addressing the House of Commons
Jeremy Corbyn is addressing MPs in the House of Commons before Theresa May stands up to make her last-minute pitch to colleagues.
He says Labour will vote against the deal and says: “We need to keep in mind that the vast majority of people in our country don’t think of themselves Remainers or Leavers. Whether they voted leave or remain two and a half years ago, they are concerned about their future.
“So Mr Speaker, I hope tonight that this house votes down this deal and then we move to a general election.”
18:10: Another May loyalist refuses to vote for her deal
Conservative MP Hugo Swire has become the latest May loyalist to announce say they cannot vote for her Brexit deal.
Speaking in the House of Commons moments ago, Swire – who is usually fiercely loyal to the prime minister – said he “cannot reconcile” himself to vote for a deal that could put the UK in a backstop that it had no unilateral power to leave.
17:32: People’s Vote protesters gather outside Westminster
Hundreds of People’s Vote campaigners are gathered on the green outside the Houses of Parliament listening to speeches from MPs who support another referendum.
16:42: Tory Brexiteer U-turns twice
Conservative Brexiteer Sir Edward Leigh has pulled off the remarkable feat of two U-turns.
Leigh initially opposed May’s deal. Earlier this week, he said he had changed his mind and declared his support for it. This came after Theresa May decided to give him a knighthood.
However, speaking in the Commons just now, Leigh suggested he was again planning to vote against it, telling MPs he “reserves the right” to reject the PM’s deal.
14:37: Here are the amendments in full
1. CORBYN (LABOUR) AMENDMENT: Line 1, leave out from “House” to end and insert “declines to approve the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship because it fails to provide for a permanent UK-EU customs union and strong single market deal and would therefore lead to increased barriers to trade in goods and services, would not protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, allows for the diminution of the United Kingdom’s internal and external security and is likely to lead to the implementation of a backstop provision in Northern Ireland that is neither politically nor economically sustainable; declines to approve the United Kingdom’s leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement; and therefore resolves to pursue every option that prevents the United Kingdom’s either leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement or leaving on the basis of the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House.”
2. SIR JOHN BARON (TORY) AMENDMENT: At end, add “subject to changes being made in the withdrawal agreement and in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol so that the UK has the right to terminate the protocol without having to secure the agreement of the EU.”
2. IAN BLACKFORD (SNP) AMENDMENT: Line 1, leave out from “House” to end and insert “declines to approve the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship in line with the views of the Scottish parliament and the Welsh assembly that they would be damaging for Scotland, Wales and the nations and regions of the UK as a whole; notes the legal opinion of the advocate general of the European Court of Justice that the United Kingdom has the right to unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, until such time as the withdrawal agreement is formally concluded; therefore calls on the UK government to request an extension to the period of negotiation under article 50 of the treaty on European Union so that the UK does not leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement or on the basis of the negotiated agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018; and calls on the UK government to respect the will of the Scottish parliament in its vote on 5 December 2018 and the Welsh assembly in its vote on 4 December 2018, which both rejected the withdrawal agreement as it now stands.”
3. SIR EDWARD LEIGH (TORY) AMENDMENT: “At end, add “notes that the Northern Ireland backstop is intended to be temporary; notes that the Vienna convention on the law of treaties makes it absolutely clear that a sovereign state can abrogate any part of a treaty with an international body in case of a fundamental change of circumstances since the Treaty was agreed; notes that making the Northern Ireland backstop permanent would constitute such a fundamental change of circumstances; and therefore calls for an assurance from the government that, if it becomes clear by the end of 2021 that the European Union will not agree to remove the Northern Ireland backstop, the United Kingdom will treat the indefinite continuation of the backstop as a fundamental change of circumstances and will accordingly give notice on 1 January 2022 to terminate the withdrawal treaty so that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland shall become an independent country once again.”
14:30: Michel Barnier tells the UK: “Keep calm!”
Meanwhile, in Brussels, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has offered a message for Westminster: “Keep calm!”
14:05: Cox: “What are you playing at?!”
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is delivering a barnstorming performance in defence of the prime minister’s deal.
He says it’d be the “height of irresponsibility” for MPs to vote down down the agreement given the legal complexities and disruption it would unleash and bellows: “What are you playing at? What are you doing? You are not children in the playground, you are legislators. We are playing with people’s lives.”
13:27: Transition will be like ‘an airlock’ — Cox
Cox is mounting a fiery defence of Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. He says it allows existing legal agreements between the UK and EU to continue.
He says the transition period from March would be like an “airlock” which allows the human body to adapt to a new environment. The deal itself will allow the UK to adapt to a new world after Brexit, he says.
13:20: The always-entertaining Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is opening the debate.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox – the government legal spokesperson renowned for his booming voice – is up in the House of Commons making the case for May’s deal
House of Commons speaker John Bercow says Cox has “the intellect of Einstein and the eloquence of Demosthenes.”
13:00: Bercow rejects Brexit deal amendments that could have saved May
John Bercow has rejected the two key Brexit amendments that could have helped May avoid a huge defeat tonight. The Murrison and Swire amendments were designed to assuage some of the fears of Brexiteers about the Northern Ireland backstop, but neither have been selected by the Speaker, ostensibly because they lack sufficient support from backbenchers.
Instead Bercow has selected the following four amendments, none of which were backed by the government. Here they are:
Labour’s official amendment will decline support for May’s deal on the basis that it does not provide for a permanent customs union with the EU, or protect workers’ rights.
Ian Blackford’s amendment
The SNP amendment also rejects the deal and calls for an extension of the Article 50 period in order to negotiate a better deal.
Edward Leigh’s amendment
This Brexiteer amendment rejects the Northern Ireland backstop and calls for the deal to be ripped up if the EU refuse to remove it.
John Baron amendment
The Baron amendment would give the UK the right to terminate the backstop at any point it wishes to without EU agreement.
Each amendment is expected to take around 15 minutes to vote on. With voting beginning at 7 PM GMT we can expect a final result around 8.15 PM.
None of the above amendments look likely to win majority support meaning that opposition to May’s deal tonight is likely to be at its maximum.
12:21: May set to make a statement following the vote
A spokesperson for the prime minister has just told journalists, including Business Insider’s Adam Bienkov, that May will “respond quickly to the result” after the vote takes place.
May is likely to do this in Parliament, rather than outside Downing Street, government sources say.
Asked whether the prime minister will resign if she loses by a big margin, her spokesperson said: “The prime minister is determined that she is going to deliver on the will of the public.”
The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn reckons that May told Cabinet this morning that she will push on with her deal even if MPs roundly reject it tonight, as it’s “the only option.”
Downing Street sources also signalled that the Murrison amendment, which government whips had been encouraging Tory MPs to consider, is unlikely to be picked by the Speaker.
12:05: More details on the voting timetable
We now have a few more details on the timetable for voting this evening.
The Mirror’s Pippa Crerar tweets that House of Commons Speaker John Bercow will reveal which amendments he has chosen to be put to a vote at 12:50.
Voting on these amendments will get underway at 19:00 once the debate on May’s deal has finished. The vote for each amendment will take around 15 minutes and once they’re all done, the vote on May’s deal will happen. This means we should expect a result later in the evening.
12:00: Cabinet source predicts a 150 majority against May’s deal
A source close to a pro-Brexit Cabinet minister has told Business Insider’s Adam Payne that they expect the prime minister’s deal to be voted down by a majority of around 150 votes.
If true, it would spare May the embarrassment of breaking the record for the heaviest ever defeat for a UK government (a record held by early 20th-century prime minister Ramsay MacDonald) but it would still be a crushing defeat for the PM and her deal.
11:40: Arlene Foster accuses May of doing “violence” to the Union
DUP leader Arlene Foster is speaking at an event in Westminster alongside Conservative Brexiteers and there is little sign that either she, or her party, are about to bend. Business Insider’s Thomas Colson is attending and tweets that Foster has said the Brexit backstop “does violence to the union” between the UK and Northern Ireland.
She also calls on the prime minister to wrip up her deal with the EU and draft it’s own, saying that “The party that holds the pen and drafts the text holds the advantage.”
With May dependent on the DUP to prop up her minority government, things are not looking good for her chances of getting any deal through.
10:30: Could the Murrison amendment hand May a lifeline?
First things first: What is the Murrison amendment?
Every MP knows that May’s deal is going to be defeated tonight.
A motion from Brexit-supporting Tory MP Andrew Murrison – a loyalist to the prime minister- could offer her a lifeline for events that come after, though.
The amendment would give conditional support to her Brexit plan but dictate that the deal could only come into force if the EU alters the Withdrawal Agreement to include an expiry date for the Irish backstop. Brussels has repeatedly and explicitly ruled this out.
Key point: The amendment isn’t going to pass. It doesn’t have the official support of Downing Street for one thing, and Labour is not planning to back it. Plus, the amendment would only pass if MPs backed May’s deal, which they won’t.
But … If the amendment attracts support from Brexit-supporting MPs who are opposed to May’s deal, she can take that to Brussels and say she needs such a concession to win the support of parliament.
9:52: DUP’s Foster — Tonight’s vote ‘historic for the wrong reasons’
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party intends to vote against the PM’s deal tonight, despite their confidence and supply agreement with her government.
Here’s what DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted this morning: “Tonight will be historic but for the wrong reasons. We will oppose the toxic backstop & vote against the WA. It’s time for a sensible deal which governs our exit from the EU & supports all parts of the UK.”
The DUP opposes the deal because the backstop measures for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland would create new border checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The DUP – a staunch pro-union party – regards any divergence as unacceptable.
09:42: Could Corbyn table a no confidence vote tonight?
Speaking on Sky News, Liberal Democrats leader Sir Vince Cable says that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should table a vote of no confidence in the government tonight or tomorrow if Theresa May loses tonight’s vote.
There has been much speculation that Corbyn could table announce one tonight, but he could be tempted to delay on the grounds that he does not currently have the numbers to win the vote, with DUP and Tory MPs united – for once – in their opposition to the prospect of a Corbyn-led government.
Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald told Sky this morning that a vote would happen “soon.”
09:10: Senior Labour MP withdraws amendment
Labour MP and chair of the Commons Brexit committee Hilary Benn has agreed to withdraw his amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement. His amendment was designed to kill off May’s Brexit deal and the threat of no deal.
However, his Labour colleagues warned him that if it passed, the amendment would have negated the need for tonight’s meaningful vote, as May’s deal would already be dead. This would have spared the government the humiliation of a potentially massive defeat.
Benn’s decision to withdraw means we will definitely get a vote on the Brexit deal tonight as planned (unless the prime minister postpones again …)
08:35: Michael Gove warns MPs: “winter is coming”
Good morning! And welcome to Business Insider’s live coverage of the meaningful vote.
We’ll be providing minute-by-minute updates all day and through the night as Theresa May braces for herself for a potentially massive rejection of her Brexit deal.
Environment Secretary and supporter of May’s deal, Michael Gove, just told BBC Radio 4 that if MPs vote it down this evening, “in the words of Jon Snow, ‘winter is coming’.”
The leading Brexiteer was quoting the Games Of Thrones character, not the Channel 4 host.
May has warned that if Parliament does not accept her deal then chaos will be unleashed on the country, with a strong possibility of Brexit being cancelled altogether.
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