MPs defeat May government over no-deal Brexit

Christopher Davidson
January 10, 2019

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MPs backed an amendment demanding the Government return within three sitting days with a new plan if it is defeated in next week's crunch vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal.

May has ruled out another public referendum and the government and businesses have been ramping up preparations for a no-deal exit, with Britain set to leave the European Union at the end of March.

The prime minister has already postponed the vote once - in December - to avoid defeat by MPs, but has insisted next week's will go ahead.

Following furious scenes at Westminster over John Bercow, the Commons Speaker's decision to allow MPs to vote on a rebel Tory amendment on a business motion, MPs, by a majority of 11, voted for it; 308 to 297.

An alliance of governing Conservative and opposition legislators has dealt May two defeats in as many days - symbolic setbacks that suggest a power shift from the executive to the legislature. We can leave the European Union under the terms of some version of the prime minister's bad deal or we can keep all our rights, powers, influence and op-outs in our current deal as full members of the EU.

A Government source speaking to The Times said Bercow allowed the amendment despite Commons clerks, whose job it is to advise the Speaker on Parliamentary procedure, telling him that amendments should not have been allowed. Lawmakers would have the power to amend that plan.

Britain's de-facto deputy Prime Minister, David Lidington, said the only way to avoid a disruptive no-deal "is for Parliament to endorse and ratify a deal".

Mr Grieve had tabled the amendment Tuesday night after pro-EU MPs had passed an amendment to the Finance Bill created to prohibit spending on No Deal preparations without authorisation from Parliament - which is dominated by Remainers and largely opposed to No Deal.

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He added that the proposals "give the Northern Ireland Assembly - when, as we all hope, it is reconstituted and working again - a veto over introducing any new areas of law and policy into that backstop". "These discussions have shown that further clarification over the backstop is possible and those talks will continue over the next few days", May said.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said the delay "has achieved nothing beyond wasting a month".

The withdrawal agreement is good both for the United Kingdom and for the EU.

"The real choice facing Parliament and the country is now clear".

But the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it would not support the deal unless May dropped a part known as the backstop which is aimed at preventing a hard border between the British province and EU-member Ireland if both sides fail to clinch a future trade deal. Brexit supporters are anxious that there is no mechanism for Britain to unilaterally withdraw, meaning it could end up indefinitely stuck in the union, hampering its ability to strike deals with the rest of the world.

But concerns are mounting that May will be unable to push the deal through a deeply divided British parliament.

He said: "There now is a withdrawal deal on the table and it hasn't been well received".

Mr Bercow said that was a "factual error" and told MPs the auto belonged to his wife. Without an alternative, he said, the default position would be leaving without a deal.

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