Parliament to debate Labour no-confidence motion after Brexit deal defeat that gives May just days to present a fresh vision for EU withdrawal
- Theresa May suffers historic defeat as Tories turn against her
- How did your MP vote?
- How does a no-confidence motion work?
- The noes tweeted it: which MPs can you spot in the division lobbies?
SIENNA RODGERS, LABOURLIST|AIWA! NO!|Theresa May suffered the worst defeat of any government in history last night. That’s no exaggeration. A majority of 230 MPs voted against her Brexit deal – bigger than anyone was expecting – with 248 Labour MPs, 118 Tories and all other parties opposed. Only three Labour MPs rebelled to vote for May’s deal – Ian Austin, Kevin Barron, John Mann – plus Frank Field, now sitting as an Independent, whereas 63% of Tory backbenchers voted against the government. After the meaningful vote, Jeremy Corbyn told MPs he had tabled a motion of no confidence in the government, which will be debated today and voted on at 7pm.
What has actually changed? Although the Prime Minister indicated that she would reach across the Commons to hold cross-party talks with a “constructive spirit” when speaking at the despatch box, the reality is far less encouraging. Her spokesman made clear last night that she would not seek talks with Corbyn, but “senior parliamentarians” only, and this was confirmed by Andrea Leadsom on Today this morning. This stance could dissipate after the confidence vote tonight, though it does align with May’s extraordinarily stubborn approach and her persistence in prioritising the Conservative Party over the country.
As expected then, May’s ‘Plan B’ will very closely resemble ‘Plan A’ – despite a staggering number of parliamentarians having just rejected that very deal. When it comes to the government, ‘nothing has changed’. And for Labour? The steps set out in its conference policy will be followed, though not in the way many party activists hope. John McDonnell says there’s a “febrile atmosphere” in Westminster and “anything could happen”, but the DUP and Tories will support the government today – which is laughable, of course. So once it is clear an election cannot be forced, will Corbyn back the People’s Vote campaign? Don’t bet on it.
“Motions of confidence can happen more than once,” the leader’s spokesman said last night. Plus, a fresh referendum isn’t the only option on that notorious table. Asked what the other options were, the spokesman replied: “The first is the alternative plan that we have laid out and that we believe can command a majority across the Commons, even without a general election… All options on the table means there is no hierarchy but this is our policy.” See what I mean? There are situations in which Labour could win a confidence vote: if a deal including the backstop passes, or if MPs find themselves staring off the no-deal cliff edge. The leadership doesn’t want to jump the gun.
The questions to ask now: How many MPs will go back on their votes and ultimately support May’s deal? If her Plan B fails, will May compromise on customs union membership? Or can she hold out for longer, and continue to threaten MPs with no deal/no Brexit? Will the Commons extend Article 50, and does this eventually mean another public vote? The answers are unknowable at this stage, but the next few sitting days in parliament promise to be exciting and decisive.