Theresa May’s European Union (EU) withdrawal bill looks dead in the water following a resounding defeat in Parliament that saw Members of Parliament voted by a majority of 230 votes, 432 to 202, to reject May’s bill.
Speaking immediately after the vote, the Prime Minister said that should the opposition propose a motion of no confidence, the Government would make time for the no-confidence motion to be debated.
The Prime Minister said the vote “Tells us that the House does not support the deal, but it tells us nothing about what it does support, nothing about how, or even if, it intends to honour the decision the British public took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold.”
May added that people “deserve clarity,” but this vote means that industries which trade across the borders between the EU and Britain have no clarity on what the situation at the borders will be on 29 March. The current position means that if there is no extension to Article 50, the EU rule that triggered the leave negotiations, Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal, and that would be the freight industry’s worst nightmare.
The leader of the opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn called the defeat the “Greatest defeat since the 1920’s; it’s a catastrophic defeat.” Corbyn added that the Government had proved itself unable to competently make an acceptable deal and immediately tabled a motion of no confidence that will be debated on 16 January.
Corbyn said “after two years of failed negotiations, the House of Commons has delivered its verdict on her [May’s] Brexit deal and that verdict is absolutely decisive.” He went on to say that no deal must be taken off the table, a permanent customs union must be secured and people’s rights must be guaranteed.
Commentators on the BBC have said that this is the largest defeat on a flagship policy for any Government, the next worst defeat occurred in 1924 when the then Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald lost a vote by 166 votes.
Under normal circumstances the Prime Minister would have to resign. It is unprecedented in British politics that no resignation has been tendered. But with Conservatives fearing a defeat in a General Election to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, it is likely that May will survive the confidence vote.