'Like the living dead': Theresa May heads for third defeat on her Brexit deal

GettyTheresa May
  • Members of Parliament will vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal again on Friday.
  • This time, MPs will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, but not the Political Declaration on UK’s future relationship with the EU.
  • The government hopes that this strategy will convince MPs to support the deal.
  • If the deal passes, then the UK will leave on the EU on May 22.
  • However, May is set for another defeat, with Conservative, Labour and DUP MPs ready to vote it down.
  • If that happens, then the UK will inch closer to a much longer Brexit delay.

LONDON – Theresa May is heading for a likely third defeat on her Brexit deal on Friday as she makes a last-ditch attempt to get it over a line and avoid a potentially long delay to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.

On what was originally meant to be Brexit day, the House of Commons will vote on whether to accept or reject the Withdrawal Agreement agreed between May and EU leaders.

Crucially, it is not another “meaningful vote,” as this time MPs will vote on just one part of part the Brexit deal, the Withdrawal Agreement, with the Political Declaration on the future UK-EU relationship saved for another day.

The UK government hopes that by leaving out the Political Decleration, it will persuade MPs who have voted against the Brexit deal in the past to support it today. MPs have rejected the deal twice and by massive margins.

If the prime minister is successful on Friday, then the UK would be on course to leave the EU on May 22, and would use the time between now and then to get the rest of May’s deal over the line.

A government source on Thursday said there was “strong rationale” for holding the vote as it was the “last chance for us to lock in May 22” and avoid a potentially very lengthy delay to Brexit.

If the deal doesn’t pass on Friday, then the country would inch closer to a much longer Article 50 extension.

Not only that, but backbench MPs would next week move to force a softer Brexit on May in the next round of “indicative votes” scheduled for Monday. MPs were just eight votes away from securing a customs union this week.

May’s deal is all but certain to fall again.

The Democratic Unionist Party whose support is key to unlocking a majority still refuses to back the deal over its opposition to the Irish backstop. At least 25 pro-Brexit Conservative MPs are set to vote against it, as are the vast majority of Labour MPs.

There was one chink of light for May on Friday when 6 Labour MPs and 2 former Labour MPs submitted an amendment, suggesting they would back the deal if May agreed to give parliament greater say over future negotiations with the EU.

The Commons Speaker John Bercow declined to allow the amendment. However, the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told Labour MP Gareth Snell, who brought forward the amendment, that the government would support it in principle.

There is also growing concern among anti-Brexit campaigners that a higher number of Labour MPs will support the prime minister this time than previously, when just 3 supported it.

However, barring a dramatic turnaround, the deal is set for another defeat.

This is why there was some confusion in Westminster when the government announced plans for a vote.

BBC Newsnight’s Nick Watt on Thursday quoted a member of May’s Cabinet, who asked why the prime minister was setting herself up for another defeat, told him: “F*** knows. I am past caring. It is like the living dead in here.”

The Cabinet minister went on: “Theresa May is the sole architect of this mess. It is her inability to engage in the most basic human interactions that brought us here. Cabinet has totally broken down. Ministers say their bit, she gives nothing away, one side thinks X will happen, the other side think Y will happen and the prime minister decides on Z.”

MPs are set to begin debating the deal at 09:30 GMT before voting takes place just after 14:00.

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