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Brexit deal DEFEATED in worst Commons loss in history

Mirror logo Mirror 1/15/2019 Pippa Crerar
Prime Minister Theresa May sits down in Parliament after the vote on May's Brexit deal, in London, Britain, January 15, 2019 in this screengrab taken from video. Reuters TV via REUTERS © Thomson Reuters Prime Minister Theresa May sits down in Parliament after the vote on May's Brexit deal, in London, Britain, January 15, 2019 in this screengrab taken from video. Reuters TV via REUTERS

MPs tonight voted down the UK's Brexit deal in the most crushing Commons defeat in modern history.

Cheers erupted from thousands in Parliament Square as MPs inflicted a 432-202 defeat on Prime Minister.

The margin of victory - 230 - annihilated a record of 166 set against the Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald in 1924.

With 118 Conservatives revolting it was also the biggest Tory rebellion in known history, thrashing the 95 Conservatives who rebelled over post-Dunblane gun control in 1997.

Jeremy Corbyn launched an instant no confidence vote in the government to be held tomorrow.

It came despite a final desperate plea by the Prime Minister - who shamefacedly said she would "work harder" to cooperate with Parliament.

a group of people sitting at a table © Credits: AFP/Getty Images

She told MPs: "I believe we have a duty to deliver on the democratic decision of the British people, and to do so in a way that brings our country together". And Attorney General Geoffrey Cox warned MPs they were "playing with people's lives".

But Jeremy Corbyn savaged the "reckless leap into the dark" and demanded a general election in a final speech. 

Speaking after the defeat, a shamefaced Prime Minister promised a further statement by Monday 21 January on the way forward - and an "amendable" motion allowing MPs to say what happens next.

She said she will "focus on ideas that are genuinely negotiable and have sufficient support in this House." 

She added: "If these meetings yield such ideas, the Government will then explore them with the European Union."

a group of people sitting at a table © Credits: REUTERS

By Wednesday 30 January MPs will vote on those next steps.

But Mrs May will face a challenge much sooner with a no confidence vote in her government tabled by Jeremy Corbyn tomorrow night.

If he is successful it will trigger a two-week countdown to a general election campaign - with an election as early as March 7.

Mrs May was expected to win the no confidence vote after her DUP allies said they would continue to work with her.

But Labour's leader can table unlimited no confidence votes in the government if the first is not successful.

Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon told BBC News: "If we don't win this no confidence vote this time, then we can bring it again and again and again if necessary."

The Brexit deal was killed off spectacularly because of a 'backstop' clause designed to keep the Northern Ireland border open after 2020.

Sajid Javid et al. sitting posing for the camera © Credits: REUTERS

It would have trapped the UK under EU customs rules indefinitely from 1 January 2021 - and only able to escape with Brussels' permission.

Mrs May had hoped "assurances" from the EU just 24 hours before the vote would win over wavering MPs.

But Brexiteers blasted them as too vague - and the hardline DUP doomed her deal to defeat.

Party leader Arlene Foster said she still wanted the PM to strike an agreement but that the backstop had to go.

She said: “But the current deal doesn’t do that and that’s we want her to go back and ask for a better deal.”

  a close up of a man © Credits: FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Mrs Foster bizarrely claimed defeat would strengthen the PM’s hand with Brussels. 

“She will be able to go back to the European Union and tell them that she has taken the mood of Parliament, that Parliament has rejected the withdrawal deal as it currently stands and there will have to be more negotiation,” she said.

Government insiders dismissed reports that Mrs May could resign if more than 100 Tory MPs inflicted a humiliating blow tonight.

They insisted - incredibly - that the vote was in fact just the first stage in the process to get it through the Commons.

But within minutes of the defeat Mr Corbyn has tabled a vote of no confidence in the Government, with the vote expected after PMQs tomorrow.

If Labour wins the motion a general election, the party’s key ambition, could follow within 14 days.

a group of people holding a sign © Credits: Anthony Harvey/REX/Shutterstock

Veteran Tory eurosceptic Bill Cash called on the PM to consider her position “and to do so with dignity and without rancour” over the vote.

But the DUP leader signalled her party would not support the bid to oust Mrs May, dashing Labour hopes their 10 DUP MPs might be encouraged to abstain.

“Whether Jeremy Corbyn puts down a motion of no confidence is entirely a matter for him,” she said.

“Our confidence and supply agreement was constructed at a time when the Government needed stability...

“We still want to support the Government to bring stability to the United Kingdom.”

Mrs May is planning to bring back the more or less the same deal to the Commons within days.

a colorful kite © Credits: EMPICS Entertainment

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox confirmed that her Plan B, in the first instance, was having another go at her Plan A. 

“This agreement will have to return, in much the same form, with much the same content.”

Scots Secretary David Mundell described the Commons crunch as “an initial vote” and suggested there could be repeated votes on Mrs May’s deal to come.

It was unclear before the vote whether she would fly out to Brussels later this week to beg for more compromises before returning before MPs next Monday.

Downing Street is hoping the first vote will give MPs an opportunity for “blood-letting” and they will row in behind her deal in a second vote.

One senior No 10 source told the Mirror: “We know there are Tory MPs who feel they need to vote against it this time, to keep their associations happy, but would back us next time round.

a group of people holding a sign © Credits: NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

“And we’ve spoken to sympathetic Labour MPs who say that there’s no point expending their political capital now the defeat is going to be huge, but would consider backing it next time.” 

Environment Secretary Michael Gove claimed some MPs who had rejected the deal were now prepared to back it, but the number of switchers were expected to be pitifully small.

“The British people have placed a responsibility on us. Are we going to live up to that responsibility and vote to leave the EU, or are we going to disappoint them and damage our democracy?” he said.

In the hours running up to the vote, Tory whips changed tactics from trying to win over their MPs to persuading them to abstain instead.

Government sources were hoping to limit the scale of the defeat to under 100.

 

In ordinary times this would bring about the downfall of a PM. But at such a moment of national crisis she was set to cling on.

One senior Brexiteer told the Mirror: “If fewer than 117 Tories vote against it would be no worse than the confidence vote so nothing would have changed.”

Mrs May’s Cabinet met this morning to try to persuade her to change tack.

Remainer minister Amber Rudd, backed by several cabinet colleagues, led calls for the PM to reach out to Labour MPs to try to reach a compromise.

Senior Labour figures have indicated to the Mirror they could be open to negotiation.

It emerged that PM’s chief Brexit advisor, Olly Robbins, has been working on secret contingency plans for cross-party talks.

Keir Starmer wearing a suit and tie © Credits: Pete Maclaine / i-Images

He was said to have drawn up proposals for testing six different Brexit options in the event of a defeat last night. 

Downing Street is not thought to have decided yet whether to open the door to direct talks with Mr Corbyn or work through back channels instead.

It means that MPs could then vote on whichever plan looked most likely to command support.

This could include the Norway Plus option backed by the Mirror.

Shadow cabinet minister Tony Lloyd hinted that if there was a customs union attached to the deal Labour might consider it.

But Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis warned the move would never be accepted by members and could divide the party. “The party wouldn’t wear it,” he said.

Brexiteer ministers warned her that if she tacked towards a soft Brexit she would have a “fully-fledged revolt” on her hands.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera © Credits: AFP/Getty Images

They urged her to return to Brussels to demand more concessions instead. 

Some Government insiders believed that the Germans had offered a glimmer of hope, after the PM spoke with Chancellor Angela Merkel at the weekend.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that withdrawal agreement would no longer be “substantially changed” raising speculation the door remained open for minor changes.

The top eurocrat further boosted hopes when he pulled out of a foreign trip to be in Brussels tomorrow to direct the EU’s next steps.

Mrs May has faced criticism for not making more effort to reach out to non-Tory MPs given the mathematics of the Commons.

She has spent recent days holding talks with Tory backbenchers, Labour MPs and the DUP in a last ditch attempt to avoid a humiliating defeat.

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