The European Union has ruled out a special summit or reopening negotiations on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, according to bloc sources, whilst Brexiteers have called the Prime Minister’s Commons defeat a “catastrophic failure of leadership”.
It looks unlikely after the crushing defeat of the “worst deal in history” in the House of Commons vote on Tuesday night — where the Prime Minister lost by a historic margin of 202 in favour to 432 against — that the intransigent European Union will budge on the wording of the document.
EU sources told the BBC’s Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming the bloc has “rul[ed] out a special summit or the reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement in the strongest terms this evening.”
EU sources are ruling out a special summit or the reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement in the strongest terms this evening.
— Adam Fleming (@adamfleming) January 15, 2019
Officially, the Eurocrats have reacted coldly to the news that theirs and Mrs May’s document has been rejected, with Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission — the bloc’s unelected executive arm — saying he noted “with regret” the results of the vote and that “time is almost up.”
— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) January 15, 2019
The Commission boss added a warning against what he called a “disorderly withdrawal” in a separate statement but said that it would continue its “contingency work” in the event of the United Kingdom making a clean, “No Deal” break of the bloc.
Meanwhile, President of the European Council Donald Tusk appeared to suggest that the only option now was for Britain to cancel Brexit, tweeting:
If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) January 15, 2019
Meanwhile, Leave Means Leave co-chairman Nigel Farage, who has campaigned for the United Kingdom to leave the EU for decades, said that the vote represented a “catastrophic failure of leadership.”
“If she has any sense of honour then she will resign,” Mr Farage added, later calling her “the worst prime minister in living memory.”
"I think she's the worst prime minister in living memory."
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) January 15, 2019
Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group — the United Kingdom’s oldest conservative think tank — told Breitbart London that the defeat was evidence of the political system being “unfit for purpose” and that Mrs May should “accept and embrace” a clean Brexit on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.
“For too long the Conservative leadership has been in office but not in power, neither commanding the confidence of their Party, Parliament or Nation,” Mr Harris-Quinney said.
“It’s come to the greatest Parliamentary defeat in history, with successive electoral defeats behind it, to expose how far it’s fallen to allow Theresa May to continue to labour at a fools errand on the country’s time.
“Our strong advice to the Prime Minister is now to accept and embrace a WTO terms Brexit scenario, as the default option it is the only deal that can currently traverse Parliament.”
For too long @Conservatives leadership has been in office but not in power, neither commanding the confidence of the Party, Parliament or Nation
It's come to the greatest Parliamentary defeat in 100 years-with successive electoral defeats behind it-to expose how far it's fallen
— Bow Group (@bowgroup) January 15, 2019
He continued: “It would be catastrophic for the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party to conclude that a Remainer Parliament is representative of the views of the British public in further softening its Brexit stance.
“What has been demonstrated unquestionably is that our political system is unfit for purpose, and in need of urgent reform to better represent the true views and values of the British people rather than a narrow establishment elite.”
UKIP Leader Gerard Batten was equally scathing:
“This result is no surprise for anyone. With her agreement, Theresa May achieved what was thought to be impossible – the unity of Leavers and Remainers in opposition to her plan. Only Mrs May’s most ardent supporters could have supported it.
“We now enter a deeply uncertain period as the political establishment continue their project of stopping Brexit. Mrs May and Parliament have brought about the greatest constitutional crisis since 1642. They have done all they can to thwart Brexit and we are now back to square one.
“UKIP stands alone as the only major party committed to leaving the European Union and we are prepared to continue the fight for Brexit whatever may come.”
Steve Baker MP, a member of the European Research Group (ERG) and former Brexit minister, has also called for a WTO exit, saying: “The Commons rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration is a great opportunity to aim for a better deal that respects the referendum result and is focused on the UK’s trading priorities.”
“We will offer the EU a better deal and we will be ready to trade on WTO terms with the EU if they decline.”
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson says no-deal #Brexit should still be on the table, saying the risks are "grossly exaggerated" – but he would still prefer to negotiate a deal with the EUhttps://t.co/EdKCKRvfxY #politicslive pic.twitter.com/izbe9OCjIN
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) January 15, 2019
Former Secretary of State for Brexit Boris Johnson claimed that this defeat could give Mrs May a strong hand in negotiations with the EU, telling Sky News that the Prime Minister should take that “massive mandate against her deal” to Brussels and renegotiate, principally on removing the Irish backstop.
Saying that the renegotiations could be completed by the current exit date of March 29th, the former Vote Leave board member said that “what we need to do is use the implementation period to do the FTA. That is doable when you consider the UK and EU are completely aligned.”
However, given the head Eurocrats’ statements, a serious renegotiation seems unlikely.
STANDING STRONG FOR NI!
— Sammy Wilson MP (@eastantrimmp) January 15, 2019
Sammy Wilson MP from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Northern Irish party which usually supports May’s minority administration in Parliament but voted against her deal, confirmed that it would support the Government in Wednesday evening’s vote of no confidence.
“We want to see the Government continue in delivering Brexit. We never wanted a change of government, we wanted a change of policy — back to what the Prime Minister promised in the manifesto that she stood on and the promises she made in subsequent speeches,” he said.
"We never wanted a change in government, we wanted a change in policy"- Sammy Wilson says DUP will back PM in Wednesday's confidence motion#BrexitVote latest: https://t.co/EdKCKRvfxY #politicslive pic.twitter.com/Pdq1AnS5VZ
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) January 15, 2019
Chairman of the ERG Jacob Rees-Mogg said that leaving on WTO terms “is nothing to be frightened of. It’s how we trade with the United States, it’s how we trade with other countries.
“We sign agreements around it that are relatively easy to put in place and we can trade with the EU on that basis. And crucially, the president of the port of Calais has said that nothing will change there.”
“All the fears about no deal really related to blocking transit to Calais,” he pointed out.
Asked on Sky News whether he would accept delaying leaving the EU, Mr Rees- Mogg said, “When you speak to people who voted to leave they said they voted to leave — they didn’t vote for a deal.
“That I think that is what has to be delivered to ensure the 17.4 million votes are respected.”