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Brexit: Crunch vote on Theresa May's deal definitely not held before Christmas

Downing Street said the ‘meaningful vote’ will not be brought to parliament until January

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Thursday 13 December 2018 19:36 GMT
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Theresa May says Conservative party 'would prefer new leader' for next general election

Theresa May has confirmed that a fresh commons showdown over her Brexit deal will not take place before Christmas.

Downing Street said the ‘meaningful vote’ on the withdrawal agreement made with the EU would not be brought to parliament until January.

The announcement came as Ms May’s party tore itself apart in the aftermath of the botched coup by Brexiteers to overthrow the prime minister. After their vote of no confidence, Ms May headed to a summit in Brussels in a bid to win new concessions from the EU.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “I can confirm the meaningful vote will not be brought to parliament before Christmas.”

The spokesperson added that it is the government’s aim to hold the vote in the Commons “as soon as possible in January”, with Ms May having already said she intends to hold it before the 21st of the month.

The vote had been due to take place on Tuesday, but was dramatically pulled after the whips warned the prime minister she was heading for a heavy defeat.

The delay was met with anger on all sides, prompting a further flurry of letters from Conservative MPs, triggering Wednesday’s no-confidence vote.

While Ms May said she was “grateful” to those MPs who backed her, more than a third of the parliamentary party called for her to go. She said she accepted their concerns had to be addressed.

But her words did little to calm tempers. Minister Alistair Burt likened Brexiteers to insects as he attacked them for failing to back down despite losing the vote of confidence against the prime minister.

He said: “They never, ever stop. Votes against them, letters going in late – nothing matters to the ERG [European Research Group].

“After the apocalypse, all that will be left will be ants and Tory MPs complaining about Europe and their leader.”

He was posting his stark message in response to a clip of Mr Rees-Mogg telling Newsnight the vote was “much worse” than the prime minister thought, adding an “overwhelming majority of backbenchers have voted against her”.

Ex-Brexit secretary Dominic Raab called on Ms May to resign, saying: “We will have to back her as best we can, but the problem is that – both in relation to Brexit and the wider sustainability of the government, given likelihood of any changes to the deal and given the likely scale of opposition – it looks very difficult to see how this prime minister can lead us forward.”

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab: 'I didn't vote for Theresa May last night'

Former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, who supported the prime minister, even suggested the party may split, telling the BBC on Thursday: “I think there’s an inevitability that some of these people – the hardest Brexiteers – are going to walk.

“There may be some sort of reconfiguration of parties on the right of the UK political spectrum and that may be something we are going to have to accept in order to get a Brexit deal through the House of Commons.”

Brexiteers also took to the airwaves after the vote of no confidence, hitting out at Chancellor Philip Hammond, who described the wing of the party as “extremists” during Wednesday’s febrile atmosphere.

“I have one simple message for the chancellor,” former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith told Radio 4’s Today programme. “When you start turning on your own party and making accusations about them, that’s the beginning of the end for your party.”

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