Four Labour MPS save May’s premiership in crunch vote
Opposition Brexiteers defy Corbyn to support PM’S customs plan Tory Remainers stand firm despite warning they would trigger fresh election
THERESA MAY’S immediate future as Prime Minister was saved by four Labour MPS last night as she avoided a critical Commons defeat on Brexit by the narrowest of margins.
Twelve Remain-supporting Tory rebels defied their party by voting with Labour as they tried to force the Government to seek a customs union with the EU.
Conservative whips had warned their MPS that if Mrs May lost the knifeedge vote her authority would have been so badly undermined that it would trigger a general election.
The mutineers refused to budge, reportedly telling the whips to “sod off ”, but the Government won with a majority of 307-301, thanks to four Labour Brexiteers who defied their own whip. Had they obeyed Jeremy Corbyn, Mrs May would have lost by two votes.
Mrs May is not yet out of danger, as she could yet face a no-confidence vote in her leadership in the next week.
The Prime Minister had hoped to bring forward the start of Parliament’s summer recess to tomorrow, which would have thwarted any immediate attempt to hold a vote on her leader- ship. But she had to abandon the plan after an internal backlash led by Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, meaning she faces an anxious wait until Tuesday to see if her MPS try to topple her.
Mrs May must today face the 1922 Committee of back-bench Tory MPS after two days of furious mud-slinging on the Government benches.
Boris Johnson, who resigned as foreign secretary over the Chequers agreement, is also expected to inter- vene by making his resignation speech in Parliament today, though allies said Mr Johnson would not make any personal attacks on Mrs May.
Last night Sir John Major, the last Conservative prime minister to face a no-confidence vote, suggested that Tory in-fighting could put Mr Corbyn in No10. Sir John told ITV News that Mrs May was in a “more difficult position” now than he was in the Nineties, when hardline Eurosceptics in his party – whom he referred to as “b------s” – destroyed the government over the Maastricht Treaty. Sir John was defeated by a landslide in 1997 which began 13 years of Labour rule.
On Monday, Mrs May was forced to accept four changes to her customs plans from Brexiteers that they believe will kill off her Chequers plan.
Earlier yesterday she lost a Brexit vote in the Commons for only the second time when an amendment to the trade bill requiring UK participation in the European medicines regulatory network was passed by four votes.
However, it was the Remainers’ attempt to force a change on her customs plan that threatened her future, as it directly contradicted her Chequers plan.
Whips tried to bring rebels into line by telling them their actions would lead to a no-confidence vote in Mrs May, which in turn could lead to a general election that Mr Corbyn could win.
Two Tory MPS who rebelled in Monday’s vote supported the Government last night, along with four others who had rebelled in the past, suggesting the tactic may have had some success.
Theresa May leaves Downing Street for Parliament, where she avoided a narrow defeat on Brexit – but she could yet face a vote of no confidence