Brexit deal rejected: 432 votes to 202
May facing confidence vote after humiliating Brexit defeat
Theresa May: facing prospect of leaving office
Prime Minister Theresa May’s government will face a confidence vote on Wednesday after suffering a historic and humiliating defeat in the House of Commons.
MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject Mrs May’s Brexit deal – a majority of 230 and the largest ever defeat for a sitting government. Those voting down the agreement included 118 Conservative MPs. Among them were the Scottish Tories John Lamont, Douglas Ross and Ross Thomson. The Conservative Party vice-chairman Tom Pursglove resigned in order to vote against.
The pound, which fell ahead of the vote, rallied above $1.28 on expectations that the scale of the defeat might force lawmakers to pursue other options. One analyst said the defeat had been discounted by the markets, limiting the downside. “Anything short of a no-deal Brexit is likely to be sterling positive,” he said.
Business leaders urged politicians to produce a new plan to guard against growing economic instability and the threat of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal on 29 March.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has tabled a vote of no confidence in the government, which could trigger a general election.
Mrs May said she would make time for a debate on the motion on Wednesday. If she wins, she will open cross party talks with MPs. Should there be a general election she will have to step down as she has said she will not lead her party into another campaign.
Mr Corbyn said: “The result of tonight’s vote is the greatest defeat for a government since the 1920s in this House. This is a catastrophic defeat for this government.
“After two years of failed negotiations, the House of Commons has delivered its verdict on her Brexit deal and that verdict is absolutely decisive.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, pictured, said he had noted the Commons vote “with regret”. He said: “The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote. While we do not want this to happen, the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.
“I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up.”
Senior Conservative Brexiteers are this evening setting out an alternative deal and a written ministerial statement that they believe the Prime Minister should make. The group, which includes former Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson, David Davies and Dominic Raab, wants a new deal based on World Trade Organisation terms if the EU rejects the revised offer.
Steve Baker MP, deputy chairman, European Research Group said: “The Commons rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration is a great opportunity to aim for a better deal that respects the referendum result and is focused on the UK’s trading priorities. We will offer the EU a better deal and we will be ready to trade on WTO terms with the EU if they decline.
“If we leave on WTO terms, we will no longer be faced with handing over £39bn for little in return, seeing our United Kingdom broken apart or being forced to follow EU laws with no say.
“This document sets out a firm plan to take up the EU’s March offer of a best-in-class trade agreement respecting UK priorities, the EU’s legal order and allowing the UK to develop a truly independent trade and domestic regulatory policy.
“We have the opportunity to set our own course in the world. This is the right plan to respect the referendum result and prosper.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, pictured, said: “Every business will feel no deal is hurtling closer. A new plan is needed immediately. This is now a time for our politicians to make history as leaders. All MPs need to reflect on the need for compromise and to act at speed to protect the UK’s economy.”
Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “There are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience, and growing anger amongst business after two and a half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping.”
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “A no deal Brexit means the public will face higher prices and less choice on the shelves.
“This really is crunch time and politicians must come together around a workable solution that safeguards consumers from the costs and disruptions of new constraints on the tariff-free and frictionless trade we currently enjoy with partners in the EU. The time for Parliamentary games is over.”
Ian Wright, Food & Drink Federation chief executive, called for an extension to the transition period “in order for parliament to decide what our next steps are; whether that is a new deal, a referendum, an orderly exit from the EU without a deal at a later date, or a general election.”
“The Prime Minister has lost all authority and there is a clear need for a General Election to break the deadlock.
“Labour’s alternative plan for Brexit would protect jobs and workers’ rights, and bring the country together.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie described the vote as “a historic and devastating defeat for the Prime Minister.” He said: Her deal is in tatters. So is her credibility.
“With public services at risk, what happens next is too important to be left to an utterly divided Conservative party.
“When she returns to Parliament, the Prime Minister should announce plans for a People’s Vote, giving power back to the British public to decide how they want to proceed.”
Kerry Buist, director of Scotland for a People’s Vote, said: “Democracy has decisively reasserted itself over what has been a failed process.
“A further spin of the wheel or roll of the dice at Westminster is pointless. Instead, there is only one way forward – to hand the final decision back to the public through a People’s Vote.”
Omar Ali, UK Financial Services Leader at EY, said the City has been planning on the basis of no deal for some time.
“Whilst this result was widely expected, it means there is still no clarity, with just 73 days until the planned exit date,” he said.
“Firms have no choice but to fully implement their no-deal plans. EY’s most recent survey of FS firms found almost a quarter of respondents (24%) already do not believe they have time to execute their Brexit plans by March 2019.”