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As it happenedended1550509075

Theresa May endures humiliating loss as Tory rebels refuse to back government plan

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Thursday 14 February 2019 16:30 GMT
Brexit: Theresa May dismisses claims she plans to extend Article 50 as something “overheard in a bar”

Theresa May has suffered another embarrassing defeat in the Commons, after MPs again voted down her Brexit plans on Valentine's Day.

By a majority of 45, the prime minister's latest non-binding motion - endorsing her plans - was rejected by MPs after a considerable rebellion from Conservative backbenchers.

The defeat came after the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group announced they had taken a "collective decision" to abstain.

Immediately after the vote, Jeremy Corbyn said he was "surprised" the prime minister wasn't present in the Commons "to hear the result of this vote".

He added: "I was going to ask her to come to the despatch box now and admit her strategy has failed and bring forward to the House a coherent plan.

"A coherent plan that can deal with the stresses and anxieties that so many people all over over this country are feeling that can be brought to this House so we can make some progress forward to bring people together and prevent a catastrophic no-deal Brexit on 29th March."

But responding to the votes on Thursday evening, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn yet again put partisan considerations ahead of the national interest – and yet again, by voting against the Government’s motion, he is in effect voting to make no deal more likely.

“While we didn’t secure the support of the Commons this evening, the Prime Minister continues to believe, and the debate itself indicated, that far from objecting to securing changes to the backstop that will allow us to leave with a deal, there was a concern from some Conservative colleagues about taking no deal off the table at this stage.

“The motion on 29th January remains the only one the House of Commons has passed expressing what it does want – and that is legally binding changes to address concerns about the backstop. The Government will continue to pursue this with the EU to ensure we leave on time on 29th March.”

As it happened..


Welcome to today's live coverage from Westminster.

Benjamin Kentish14 February 2019 08:36

MPs will vote tonight on whether to agree to give Theresa May more time for Brexit talks with the EU.

The motion says further time is needed to secure concessions on the backstop, which Ms May believes will be enough to win parliament's backing for her Brexit deal.

But the prime minister is facing the prospect of another defeat, with Eurosceptic MPs set to either abstain or vote against the government motion because they say it rules out a no-deal Brexit.

In reality, the vote is largely symbolic, with Ms May likely to carry on regardless in a bid to secure changes that Brussels insists are impossible...

Benjamin Kentish14 February 2019 08:47

John McDonnell has risked deepening divisions in Labour's top team by admitting a general election is "unlikely".

The shadow chancellor backed Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, who said on Tuesday that pushing for a general election was no longer a "credible option".

That claim prompted a rebuke from Jeremy Corbyn's team, with the Labour leader's spokesman insisting that triggering an election remained the "preferred option".

But asked whether he agreed with Sir Keir, Mr McDonnell told a Politico event: "We're still in the hope of a general election, but it's unlikely, so, yeah, I think [he is]."

That is unlikely to go down well with Mr Corbyn's team...

Benjamin Kentish14 February 2019 08:59

Labour has used its latest party political broadcast to blame the Conservatives for the deaths of 120,000 people that it says are linked to austerity

Benjamin Kentish14 February 2019 09:16

Tory MP Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, has also criticised John McDonnell for calling the wartime prime minister a villain.

Mr Soames said:

"Frankly, it's a very foolish and stupid thing to say, surely said to gain publicity.

"I think my grandfather's reputation can withstand a publicity-seeking assault from a third-rate, Poundland Lenin. I don't think it will shake the world."

Benjamin Kentish14 February 2019 09:30

Security minister Ben Wallace has said the government will not help Shamima Begum, the schoolgirl who fled to join Isis in 2015 and has now been found by The Times living in a Syrian refugee camp.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today that "actions have consequences", saying:

"The UK advises against all travel to Syria and parts of Iraq. Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger.

"Everyone who returns from taking part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must expect to be investigated by the police to determine if they have committed criminal offences, and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to our national security.

"There are a range of terrorism offences where individuals can be convicted for crimes committed overseas and we can also use Temporary Exclusion Orders to control an individuals' return to the UK."

"I'm not putting at risk British people's lives to go and look for terrorists or former terrorists in a failed state - there's consular services elsewhere in the region and the strong message this government has given for many years is that actions have consequences."

Benjamin Kentish14 February 2019 09:46

Defeat for Theresa May in the Commons tonight would make it impossible for her to secure further concessions from the EU, Liam Fox has said

Benjamin Kentish14 February 2019 10:03

PA have produced this very helpful summary of the key amendments MPs are likely to vote on tonight...

Government motion

This apparently innocuous motion asks the House to welcome Ms May's statement on Tuesday, setting out progress in Brexit talks, note that talks on the Irish backstop are "ongoing" and "reiterate its support" for the approach to negotiations agreed the last time MPs voted, on 29 Janaury. The problem for the government is that MPs voted that day not only to authorise the PM to go back to Brussels and seek a replacement for the controversial Irish backstop, but also for a non-binding motion which would rule out a no-deal outcome. Leave-supporting backbenchers from the European Research Group fear that this would effectively mean signing up to a bar on no-deal.

Labour amendment

Tabled by Jeremy Corbyn and his frontbench, this would require the government to either call a vote on its withdrawal plan by 27 February or hand control to Parliament to decide the next steps. Liberal Democrats have tacked on their own amendment to this proposal, calling for a second referendum "as endorsed by the Labour Party conference".

Alternative vote

A cross-party amendment tabled by the Father of the House, veteran Tory europhile Kenneth Clarke, would allow MPs to vote on their preferred Brexit outcome. Any Brexit option which secures the signatures of 50 or more MPs would be included on a ballot paper, and MPs would be asked to rank them in order of preference. Using an alternative vote system, the least popular option would be excluded and second-preference votes redistributed until one outcome has more than half the votes. There would then be a vote in the Commons on this option. This proposal has the backing of senior Labour backbenchers including Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey as well as Tory Remainers Dominc Grieve and Anna Soubry.

Revoke Article 50

Tabled by the Scottish National Party's Angus MacNeil and backed by Mr Clarke, this amendment calls on the government to revoke the letter informing the European Council of the UK's intention to leave the EU under Article 50 of the treaties, thus ending the Brexit process and allowing Britain to remain a member of the EU.

Publish the papers

This amendment - backed by 60 critics of Brexit from across the House - instructs the Government to publish its most recent official briefings on the implications of a no-deal Brexit for business and trade. Tablers Anna Soubry and Chuka Umunna believe the papers presented to Cabinet paint a chilling picture of the damage which no-deal will do.

Indicative votes

This calls for a series of votes on 26 February on various Brexit options including the PM's Withdrawal Agreement, no-deal, renegotiation of the backstop, a Canada-style deal, Norway-style membership of the EEA and a second referendum. If only one option wins a majority, Ms May would be required to ask for an extension to Article 50 beyond its March 29 deadline to pursue that outcome. If two or more won majorities, the PM would be required to hold a public vote on those options. If none commanded a majority of MPs, Mss May would have to call a second referendum with the options of her deal or Remain. Tabled by Conservative Remainer Sarah Wollaston, the proposal has backing from opponents of Brexit across the House.

Plaid Cymru option

Backed by the Welsh nationalist party's four MPs, this requires the Government to extend Article 50 to provide time for a referendum on Ms May's deal or Remain. If no extension is allowed by the EU, the government would be required to commit itself to a referendum at the end of the transition period in 2021 on whether the UK should rejoin the EU.

Close alignment

An amendment signed by a small group of Labour and Plaid MPs, and tabled by Swansea West's Geraint Davies, would require an extension of Article 50 and a commitment from the PM to seek a deal - subject to ratification in a referendum - which leaves the option open for future governments to adopt Labour's current vision for post-Brexit relations with the EU, including a customs union and close alignment with the single market.

SNP option

Tabled by the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford, this would require the government to negotiate an extension of at least three months to the Article 50 process.

Liberal Democrat amendment

Liberal Democrats led by Sir Vince Cable are proposing an extension to Article 50 beyond March 29 to allow time for a second referendum with Remain on the ballot paper.

Three-option referendum

Tabled by Labour backbencher Roger Godsiff, this would require any withdrawal agreement approved by Parliament to be put to the public in a referendum. The ballot paper would have three options - to accept the agreement, leave with no deal or remain in the EU - and voters would be asked to rank them in order of preference under the alternative vote system.

Benjamin Kentish14 February 2019 10:22
Benjamin Kentish14 February 2019 10:40

Andrea Leadsom has just read out a Valentines Day poem in the Commons..

The Leader of the House said:

Labour is red

Tories are blue

Our future is bright

With a good deal in sight

For the UK and our friends in the EU

In response the SNP's Pete Wishart penned a few lines of his own prose. He said:

Labour is red

Tories are blue

The message from Scotland is we are staying in the EU

Benjamin Kentish14 February 2019 10:50

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