Unprecedented move in Commons
MPs vote to seize control of parliamentary business
Theresa May: rapidly losing friends
MPs have delivered another blow to Prime Minister Theresa May’s authority by taking control of Commons business for a day in an unprecedented move aimed at finding a solution to the Brexit crisis.
Three junior government ministers resigned, contributing to it being defeated by 329 votes to 302 on the cross-party amendment, a majority of 27.
The three, now former ministers – Richard Harrington, Alistair Burt and Steve Brine – were among 30 Tory MPs who voted against the government.
They backed an amendment proposed by Tory backbencher Sir Oliver Letwin, which came after the prime minister admitted that the deal she had agreed with the EU after two years of talks still did not have enough support to pass.
Indicative votes will take place on Wednesday. MPs will be able to vote on a series of options – likely to include a “softer Brexit” and another referendum – designed to find an option that achieves a majority.
Despite losing her authority, Mrs May said the government would not be bound by the results of the so-called indicative votes.
“So I pay tribute to the Hon member for West Dorset, and the member for Leeds Central, and others, who have worked to achieve tonight’s result. The Government must take this process seriously. We do not know what the House will decide on Wednesday. But I know there are many members of this House who have been working for alternative solutions, and we must debate those to find a consensus.
“And this House must also consider whether any deal should be put to the people for a confirmatory vote. Where this Government has failed, this House must, and I believe will, succeed.”
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer called the government’s defeat “humiliating”, adding: “Parliament has fought back – and now has the chance to decide what happens next.”
MPs voted against a further amendment seeking more time to avoid a No Deal.
Food and Drink Federation chief executive, Ian Wright, said: “MPs have taken a welcome first step towards resolving the Brexit deadlock. As long as Parliament refuses to approve the Prime Minister’s deal, indicative votes represent the best way forward.
“A clear route to progress must now be quickly identified and actioned. Food and Drink manufacturers need to know they have not jumped from the frying pan of 29 March into the fire of 12 April.”