Theresa May suffers historic defeat as MPs reject her Brexit deal

GettyUK Prime Minister Theresa May.
  • UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected by Parliament on Tuesday.
  • MPs in the House of Commons voted 432-202 against the deal.
  • It is the biggest Commons defeat for a British government in over a century.

LONDON – UK Prime Minister Theresa May has suffered a historic defeat as her Brexit deal was rejected by MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday by the largest margin in modern times.

The House of Commons voted 432-202 against her Brexit deal, making it the biggest Commons defeat for a British government in over a century.

“The House has spoken, and the government will listen,” the prime minister said after the result was announced.

But she added that the vote “tells us nothing about what it does support, nothing about how or even if it intends to honour the decision the British people took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold.”

Following the result, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Commons he had tabled a motion of no confidence in the government, expected to be held on Wednesday.

“I’m pleased that motion will be debated tomorrow so this House can give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this government and pass that motion of no confidence in the government,” Corbyn said.

A vote of no confidence could pave the way for May to stand down and a general election to be called.

Both the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party withdrew their amendments to the deal in order to ensure a clear result. An amendment by Brexiteer MP John Baron that would have given the UK a unilateral right to end the controversial Irish border “backstop” – a fallback plan designed to avoid new border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – was also defeated.

Those who voted against the deal included hardline Brexiteers and staunch Tory Remainers, as well as former Cabinet ministers who resigned over May’s plan. The 10 Democratic Unionist Party members, despite their confidence in and supply agreement with the government, also opposed the deal.

Most Labour MPs also voted against the deal, with Corbyn having repeatedly called for a general election.

The prime minister has until Monday to return to the Commons and explain what she intends to do next to save her Brexit plan.

Opponents of her deal have urged her to return to Brussels and renegotiate, though European negotiators remain publicly opposed to such a move.

Why did MPs reject May’s deal?

Mps house of commonsUK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

May spent Tuesday trying to reassure MPs from all parties about the Irish border backstop after receiving written assurances from European Union leaders that the measure would only be temporary.

But opposition to the backstop was too great, especially among her colleagues. Brexit-supporting Tory MPs said it could keep the UK closely bound to EU rules and contain regulatory measures that would separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Labour MPs generally supported Corbyn’s argument that May’s deal was bad for the country. Many think that voting against the prime minister’s plans could lead to a general election and elevate Labour in the government.

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