Members of Parliament have thrown out Theresa May’s contentious Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union in the long-awaited “meaningful vote” on the deal.
The Prime Minister’s Brexit deal was crushed by a historic margin of 202 in favour to 432 against, paving the way for a vote of no-confidence in the Government by the Opposition, which Mrs May told MPs she would make time for on Wednesday, January 16th.
The first vote of the night was cast on an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement by John Baron MP, which proposed inserting a right for Britain to leave the deal’s controversial “backstop” without needing to seek the EU’s permission — but this was also crushed, by 600 votes to 24.
“This vote tells us nothing about how or if [Parliament] intends to honour the decision the British people took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold, and EU citizens who have made their home here and UK citizens living in the EU deserve clarity on these questions as soon as possible,” Mrs May responded defiantly.
“[I]f the House confirms its confidence in this Government, I will then hold meetings with my colleagues in the [Democratic Unionist Party] and senior parliamentarians from across the House to identify what is required to obtain the confidence of the House,” she added.
“The Government will approach these meetings in a constructive spirit, but given the urgent need to make progress, we must focus on ideas that are negotiable and that have sufficient support in this House… if these meetings yield such ideas, the Government will explore them with the European Union.”
118 Tories against pic.twitter.com/c12psbmbgr
— Ross Kempsell (@rosskempsell) January 15, 2019
A No Deal Brexit has now become the legal default come March 29th under the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act — but the Prime Minister has said she is still intent on securing a deal of some description, should her government win the impending confidence vote — and the Remainer-dominated Commons is expected to do its utmost to thwart a No Deal, in any case.
“Mr Speaker, I want to [offer] two reassurances: The first is to those who fear it’s the government’s strategy to run down the clock to the 29th of March. That is not the strategy,” she promised — rather calling into question her commitment to delivering Brexit, whatever the machinations of Remain-supporting MPs.
“I have always believed that the best way forward is to leave in an orderly way with a good deal and have spent much of the last two years negotiating such a deal,” she added — although again, this appears to contradict her earlier and oft-repeated assertion that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) January 15, 2019
The European Union did not seem best pleased with the outcome of the meaningful vote, with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, tweeting: “I take note with regret of the outcome of the vote in the [House of Commons] this evening. I urge the #UK to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up.”
President of the European Council Donald Tusk, meanwhile, appeared to remain wedded to the deal, noting: “We will continue the EU’s process of ratification of the agreement reached with the UK government. This agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU.”
The chances of the deal making it through the British legislature without serious revisions now seem vanishingly small, however and Tusk’s true objective may have been revealed in a none-too-subtle tweet: “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?” he asked, in what was almost certainly a veiled suggestion that the Brexit vote should simply be overturned, like so many previous referendums across the European Union before it.
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
This story is developing…