Theresa May suffers Commons defeat by MPs fighting to block a no-deal Brexit

GettyTheresa May.
  • UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s government was defeated by a cross-party amendment designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
  • The amendment to the Finance Bill passed by 303 votes to 296, suggesting there is a clear parliamentary majority against leaving the European Union without a deal.
  • The government accused MPs of being “irresponsible” and attempting to “frustrate” Brexit preparations.
  • MPs vowed to back any subsequent parliamentary bid to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

LONDON – Prime Minister Theresa May’s ability to pursue a no-deal Brexit has been dealt a major blow as the House of Commons voted on Tuesday for an amendment designed to bring parts of the UK government to a halt if it attempts to crash out of the European Union.

The cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill, brought forward by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, prevents the government from budgeting for a no-deal Brexit.

MPs voted 303-296 to support the amendment in the clearest sign yet that there is a majority in the House of Commons to block a no-deal Brexit.

Twenty Conservative MPs, including several formerly loyal to the prime minister, voted against the government.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the vote as “an important step to prevent a no-deal Brexit.”

He added: “It shows that there is no majority in Parliament, the Cabinet, or the country for crashing out of the EU without an agreement. That is why we are taking every opportunity possible in Parliament to prevent no-deal.

“Theresa May must now rule out no-deal once and for all.”

Spelling out the case for her amendment, Cooper said MPs “have a responsibility not to just stand by” and allow a no-deal Brexit, adding that she was “really worried that delays, drift, and brinkmanship mean that there is now a serious risk we will end up crashing out of the EU with no deal in just 80 days’ time.”

The government accused Cooper of attempting to “frustrate” preparations for Brexit, with Exchequer Secretary Robert Jenrick telling MPs that the amendment was “unwise and irresponsible.”

Downing Street aides earlier attempted to downplay the impact of the amendment, which the prime minister’s spokesman described as “an inconvenience rather than anything more significant.”

However, it is just one of numerous attempts by MPs to halt those Conservative MPs pushing May toward a no-deal Brexit.

“We’ll be seeking to use any and every opportunity to show that Parliament will not allow a no-deal Brexit,” Nick Boles, a Conservative minister, told the Daily Mirror. “This is a single skirmish in a long campaign.”

The vote came after senior members of May’s government used a meeting of the Cabinet to urge her to rule out a no-deal Brexit, and after she met with some of the more than 200 MPs who signed a letter calling on the prime minister to rule out crashing out of the EU.

No majority for a no-deal Brexit

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd told a meeting of May’s Cabinet on Tuesday that history would take “a dim view” of the government if it allowed a no-deal Brexit to take place.

Business Secretary Greg Clark also became the first senior figure in May’s government to signal that he would resign if a no-deal Brexit were pursued.

Clark told MPs on Tuesday that leaving without a deal “should not be contemplated.”

“It is essential that we should be able to continue to trade,” Clark said. “It’s why I’ve always been clear, representing very strongly the views of small business and large business, that no-deal should not be contemplated.”

Despite the growing opposition to a no-deal Brexit, the prime minister has repeatedly refused to rule it out, with Downing Street insisting the government would never seek to extend or revoke the two-year Article 50 process designed to take Britain out of the EU.

“We will not be extending Article 50,” May’s spokesman told journalists on Tuesday morning.

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