FIGHTING FOR HER LIFE
May’s deal crushed in biggest-ever defeat She faces no-confidence vote today Cabinet split over her plan to work with Labour EU dares Britain to cancel Brexit
THERESA May was last night battling for her political life following a crushing defeat that puts Brexit in doubt. MPs voted by a majority of 230 to reject the Withdrawal Agreement she has struck with the EU. It was the biggest government defeat in British history.
The Prime Minister called on mutinous Tory MPs to back her in a confidence vote tonight. Another defeat could trigger an election and put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.
Mrs May insisted she would talk to senior MPs from all parties to bring forward a revised plan by Monday. But No 10 indicated she would not open formal talks with Mr Corbyn because of his ‘cynical’ approach to Brexit.
Last night’s defeat eclipses the previous record 166-vote loss inflicted on Ramsay MacDonald’s minority Labour administration in 1924.
More than a third of Conservative MPs – 118 in all – rebelled. However, there was no internal push to remove Mrs May from office, with even Boris
Johnson saying she should stay. Cabinet Remainers will now pressure her to drop her opposition to a permanent customs union in order to win support from Labour MPs.
Brexit-backing ministers instead want her to go back to Brussels and demand the removal of the Irish border backstop.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the European Research Group of hardline Brexiteers had effectively brought forward a softer Brexit by voting against the Withdrawal Agreement.
Chancellor Philip Hammond welcomed the Prime Minister’s attempt to find a compromise, saying: ‘I strongly back Theresa May as she reaches out across the House to build a political consensus to deliver a negotiated Brexit deal that honours the referendum result while protecting jobs, business and prosperity.’ On a tumultuous day: Commons Speaker John Bercow indicated he would allow backbench MPs to seize control of the Brexit process to prevent a no-deal exit;
Mr Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark held an emergency conference call with business leaders, amid fears that financial markets could take fright at the scale of last night’s defeat;
Mr Hammond was cheered by fellow ministers ahead of the vote when he told the PM: ‘You must not resign’;
Mr Corbyn said the ‘catastrophic defeat’ must trigger a general election;
EU president Donald Tusk suggested that Brexit could now be reversed;
Hardline Eurosceptics and the DUP indicated they would back Mrs May in today’s confidence vote despite voting against her last night;
Mrs May prepared to fly to Brussels as
Embattled: Theresa May in the Commons last night contemplates her huge defeat