Labour will table no confidence motion in Theresa May’s government if Brexit deal voted down in Commons, Keir Starmer says

‘It seems to me if the prime minister has a lost a vote of that significance, then there has to be a motion of confidence in the government’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Sunday 02 December 2018 10:17
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Sir Keir Starmer: It's 'inevitable' Labour will table a motion of no confidence in government if May’s Brexit deal is voted down

Sir Keir Starmer has said it is “inevitable” Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is voted down in the Commons.

The remarks from the shadow Brexit secretary came as the prime minister faces an intense week in her attempts to persuade MPs to back her deal at a crucial vote in the chamber in just nine days’ time.

Labour’s plan to seek a no confidence motion was first revealed by The Independent in September, as party strategists began planning their approach in the event of a deal failing to receive MPs’ ratification.

It is now widely expected that Ms May’s deal will be voted down, as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up the government, has already vowed to oppose the agreement, along with dozens of Conservative MPs.

Appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, Sir Keir said: “It looks like a considerable number of Tory MPs will vote against it – if she loses that vote, legislation has already passed saying she must come back to the House to make a statement.

“It seems to me, if the prime minister has lost a vote of that significance, then there has to be a motion of confidence in the government.”

Asked whether Labour would do so, he replied: “I think it’s inevitable that we will seek to move that – obviously it will depend on what actually happens in nine days, it will depend on what the response is – but if she’s lost a vote of this significance after two years of negotiation, then it is right that there should be a general election.

“Because, but for the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, the convention was always, if a government loses what’s called a confidence vote – something of such significance – then that government has to go.”

It is unlikely a Labour motion of no-confidence, however, would receive a majority in the Commons – given it would need the support of either Tory MPs or the DUP. Such a vote would mark the opposition’s attempt to fight for a general election as a priority, as agreed at conference in the autumn.

Failing that, Labour has vowed to keep all options on the table, including campaigning for a fresh public vote, an option which Sir Keir has previously said will include the option to stay in the EU.

Pressed on whether he would like to see a second vote, Sir Keir said: “I would like to have something far better than we’ve got at the moment.

“It’s far better than this deal.”

Appearing shortly after Sir Keir, however, Barry Gardiner – another member of Labour’s top team – appeared to diverge from his party’s official line by suggesting “no deal” should be an option on any ballot paper for a second referendum.

The shadow international trade secretary said, on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “If the deal doesn’t go through as she has presented it, then we call for a vote of no confidence and a general election. If, for any reason, that does not happen, then we have ruled nothing else out, including a second referendum, in which remain and, I think, no deal would both be on the table.”

Moments earlier, Sir Keir had said he would be “worried” about a no-deal scenario being on the ballot paper.

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