One last roll of the dice

May bets all on third and fi­nal at­tempt to get her Brexit deal through the Com­mons

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Gor­don Rayner and Steven Swin­ford

THERESA MAY will hold a third “mean­ing­ful vote” on Brexit af­ter MPS au­tho­rised her to ask for a lengthy de­lay if a deal has not been agreed by next Wed­nes­day.

Huge pres­sure is now be­ing put on the DUP and Con­ser­va­tive Brex­i­teers to fall in be­hind the Prime Min­is­ter’s deal to avoid the risk of Ar­ti­cle 50 hav­ing to be ex­tended by up to two years.

How­ever, it emerged last night that the “star cham­ber” of legally-trained Brex­i­teer MPS has al­ready re­jected fresh le­gal ad­vice from Ge­of­frey Cox, the At­tor­ney Gen­eral, over the North­ern Ir­ish back­stop.

Last night, MPS voted by 413 votes to 202 in favour of de­lay­ing Brexit by at least three months, but Mrs May had to rely on Labour sup­port for a man­date af­ter more than half of Con­ser­va­tive MPS op­posed a de­lay.

In an ex­tra­or­di­nary turn of events, 188 Tories voted against the Gov­ern­ment mo­tion to de­lay Brexit, in­clud­ing Stephen Bar­clay, the Brexit Sec­re­tary, and six other Cabi­net min­is­ters. Only 112 Tories backed the mo­tion.

Mrs May had al­lowed a free vote, mean­ing none of the min­is­ters will have to re­sign, but the mass re­bel­lion against the Gov­ern­ment line was an­other shat­ter­ing blow to the Prime Min­is­ter’s dwin­dling au­thor­ity.

The de­ci­sion to hold a third vote on her deal could trig­ger a con­sti­tu­tional clash with the Speaker, as par­lia­men­tary rules state that the same mo­tion can­not be put to a vote again in the same ses­sion once it has been de­feated.

If John Ber­cow de­cided to block a third vote, Mrs May would have no choice but to ask the EU for a long exserv­ing” ten­sion. EU sources sug­gested a de­lay of at least a year would be needed in such cir­cum­stances, and Don­ald Tusk, the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, said he would rec­om­mend a “long ex­ten­sion” at next week’s EU lead­ers’ sum­mit if the UK found it nec­es­sary to “re­think its Brexit strat­egy and build a con­sen­sus around it”. Ar­lene Fos­ter, the DUP leader, in­di­cated yes­ter­day that she be­lieved there was still time for re­vi­sions to the deal that could win her sup­port. “We want to make sure we get there,” she said, adding: “When you come to end of a ne­go­ti­a­tion, that’s when you start to see the whites in peo­ple’s eyes and you get down to point where you can make a deal.”

If the DUP backed a deal, a large num­ber of Tory Brex­i­teers have al­ready in­di­cated they could fol­low suit.

How­ever, sev­eral hard­line Tory Euroscep­tics, in­clud­ing Steve Baker, the deputy leader of the Euro­pean Re­search Group, said they would con­tinue to vote down the cur­rent deal “come what may”.

Sir Christo­pher Chope, a Tory Euroscep­tic, said he was so un­happy with Mrs May’s han­dling of Brexit that he would “se­ri­ously con­sider” vot­ing to bring down the Gov­ern­ment if Labour tabled a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence.

Even be­fore last night’s vote, Cabi­net di­vi­sions had flared when Mrs May held a lunchtime meet­ing with min­is­ters and ac­cused some of be­ing “self and “pos­tur­ing” fol­low­ing reg­u­lar leaks of Cabi­net dis­cus­sions.

The evening then de­scended into farce when Mr Bar­clay closed the de­bate on the Gov­ern­ment mo­tion to de­lay Brexit by urg­ing MPS to vote for it, then promptly voted against it him­self.

Ju­lian Smith, the Chief Whip, whose job is to per­suade MPS to back Gov­ern­ment mo­tions, ab­stained.

David Gauke, the Jus­tice Sec­re­tary, was re­port­edly asked to quit by Tory whips yes­ter­day af­ter de­fy­ing Theresa May by fail­ing to fol­low the Gov­ern­ment line on a crunch no-deal vote on Wed­nes­day night. But sources claimed that he warned his de­par­ture would trig­ger a mass walk­out by more than a dozen other min­is­ters.

In the main mo­tion, some 17 Tory MPS voted against no deal and a fur­ther 29 ab­stained, in­clud­ing four Cabi­net min­is­ters, Mr Gauke, Greg Clark, Am­ber Rudd and David Mun­dell.

If Mrs May fails to win back­ing for a deal next week, she will ask for an ex­ten­sion at the EU sum­mit on Thurs­day, be­fore mak­ing a par­lia­men­tary state­ment on her next steps on March 25.

David Lid­ing­ton, the Cabi­net Of­fice Min­is­ter, hinted that MPS would then have a chance to hold a se­ries of in­dica­tive votes to can­vass opin­ion on what sort of deal could win sup­port.

An at­tempt by MPS to seize con­trol of the Brexit process by tak­ing over the par­lia­men­tary sched­ule and hold­ing in­dica­tive votes was de­feated by a mar­gin of two votes last night. An amend­ment call­ing for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum was de­feated by a ma­jor­ity of 249 af­ter Labour ab­stained. A Labour amend­ment to de­lay Brexit for a new ap­proach to be dis­cussed was de­feated by 318 to 302, while an amend­ment to block a third “mean­ing­ful vote” was not moved.

MORE than half of Theresa May’s own MPS, in­clud­ing seven Cabi­net min­is­ters, voted against her plan to de­lay Brexit. The Prime Min­is­ter’s pro­posal to seek an ex­ten­sion to Ar­ti­cle 50 was backed by 413 votes to 202, but the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of those who op­posed her came from her own benches.

Some 188 Con­ser­va­tive MPS voted against Mrs May’s plan amid grow­ing fears that de­lay­ing the UK’S de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union could ul­ti­mately lead to Bri­tain re­main­ing in the bloc.

Ul­ti­mately, the Prime Min­is­ter was re­liant on the votes of Labour MPS to pull through as she was largely aban- doned by Tory Euroscep­tics. Mrs May suf­fered a Cabi­net re­volt for a sec­ond day in a row as seven of her top team voted against her.

They were: Stephen Bar­clay, the Brexit Sec­re­tary; Liam Fox, the In­ter­na­tional Trade Sec­re­tary; Chris Grayling, the Trans­port Sec­re­tary; An­drea Lead­som, the Com­mons Leader; Penny Mor­daunt, the In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary; Liz Truss, Chief Sec­re­tary to the Trea­sury; and Gavin Wil­liamson, De­fence Sec­re­tary. Mr Bar­clay voted against the mo­tion de­con­ser­va­tive spite hav­ing closed the de­bate at the dis­patch box for the Gov­ern­ment.

Mr Bar­clay had told MPS be­fore the vote it was “time for this House to act in the na­tional in­ter­est” and “put for­ward an ex­ten­sion that is re­al­is­tic” as he com­mended the Prime Min­is­ter’s mo­tion.

Alun Cairns, the Welsh Sec­re­tary, and Ju­lian Smith, the Chief Whip, both ab­stained.

Mr Smith, who is re­spon­si­ble for en­forc­ing Tory vot­ing dis­ci­pline, re­port­edly ab­stained be­cause he wanted to

be viewed as im­par­tial on the Brexit de­bate by the two war­ring wings of the Party. How­ever, the rest of the Cabi­net, in­clud­ing Sa­jid Javid and Jeremy Hunt, sup­ported post­pon­ing Brexit in a move that could harm their chances in any fu­ture Tory lead­er­ship cam­paign.

Ms Truss con­firmed in a tweet that she had voted against de­lay­ing Brexit as she stressed the im­por­tance of de­liv­er­ing on the 2016 EU ref­er­en­dum re­sult and urged the Gov­ern­ment to “get on with it”.

She said: “I voted against a de­lay to Brexit. As a de­lay was passed by Par­lia-

‘I still want to de­liver the Prime Min­is­ter’s with­drawal deal by March 29, that is my pref­er­ence’

‘It must be a swift ex­ten­sion, with pur­pose. We must de­liver the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum’

ment, I want to see a deal agreed ASAP so we can min­imise to a short, tech­ni­cal, ex­ten­sion.”

Ms Mor­daunt echoed the sen­ti­ment as she said any de­lay must be “swift”.

“Tonight I voted against de­lay­ing Brexit, but the Par­lia­ment agreed to an ex­ten­sion,” she said.

“It must be a swift one, with pur­pose. We must de­liver the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum, and hurry up about it.”

The fact that more than half of the Con­ser­va­tive Party’s 314 MPS opted to go against Mrs May high­lighted the Her­culean task fac­ing the Prime Min­is­ter as she tries to stop her party from rip­ping it­self apart over Europe.

Just 112 Tory MPS sup­ported the Prime Min­is­ter’s plan as she was forced to rely on the sup­port of 236 Labour mem­bers to get across the line.

Many of those Tories who backed the plan will have done so de­spite a feel­ing of un­ease given the fact that a Brexit de­lay is likely to spark anger among Leave vot­ers.

Their pri­or­ity will now be en­sur­ing any de­lay is kept as short as pos­si­ble. Matt Han­cock, the Health Sec­re­tary, and one of those Tory MPS who voted in favour of a de­lay, said it would be a “disas­ter” to have a long ex­ten­sion if the EU in­sisted on a Brexit de­lay of around two years.

“I think peo­ple want to get on with this,” he said. Mr Han­cock in­sisted that it might still be pos­si­ble for the UK to leave the EU with a deal on March 29. “I still want to de­liver the Prime Min­is­ter’s deal by March 29, that is my pref­er­ence,” he said.

“It is very dif­fi­cult and tight to do that, but it is pos­si­ble and tonight’s votes con­firm that.”

Mrs May had given her MPS a free vote on the is­sue of de­lay­ing Brexit which means that none of those min­is­ters who voted against her will face the sack or be forced to re­sign.

How­ever, the scale of the re­bel­lion against the Prime Min­is­ter will have damp­ened spir­its in Down­ing Street.

It was not just se­nior mem­bers of the Gov­ern­ment who voted against Mrs May as a num­ber of ju­nior min­is­ters also went through the op­pos­ing vot­ing lobby. Ben Wal­lace, the se­cu­rity min­is­ter, John Glen, the Trea­sury min­is­ter, Caro­line Di­ne­nage, the health min­is­ter, Nus­rat Ghani, the trans­port min­is­ter, Rishi Su­nak, the com­mu­ni­ties min­is­ter, Nad­him Za­hawi, the chil­dren’s min­is­ter, and Jackie Doyle-price, the health min­is­ter, also voted against the PM.

James Clev­erly, deputy chair­man of the Con­ser­va­tive Party, also op­posed a de­lay. Just three Labour MPS voted against the Gov­ern­ment’s ex­ten­sion mo­tion.

An anti-brexit pro­tester out­side Par­lia­ment. Cam­paign­ers on both sides of the di­vide have kept up a pres­ence in West­min­ster as the exit date nears

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