B Brexit

PM dealt crushing blow as she overwhelmingly loses vote on her Brexit deal

Prime Minister Theresa May has been dealt an embarrassing blow, with her Brexit deal being rejected by 230 votes - the largest defeat for a sitting government in history. MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject the deal, which sets out the terms of Britain's exit from the EU on 29 March.

Brexit will still go ahead on March 29th, but the terms of this are no in doubt. 

Traditionally, when a government loses a flagship policy, it is taken as a precursor to the Prime Minister’s resignation or a snap election. Indeed, for Earl Grey in 1832, it was electoral reform. For Gladstone in 1886, it was Irish Home Rule. And for Clement Attlee in 1951 and Ted Heath in 1974, it was the last throw attempt when facing parliamentary stagnation and national crisis. Arguably, the stakes are as high, if not higher. 

However, the nature of the UK’s constitution means that tradition is not set in stone. Indeed, the unmodified nature means that what happens next is anyone’s guess. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has now tabled a vote of no confidence in the government, which could trigger a general election. This is expected to happen at 1900 GMT on Wednesday. If he loses this, which is expected, it may cause the Labour Party to back a so-called People’s Vote, in line with their conference composite. 

On the Government’s side, Mrs May signalled her intention to carry on in a statement immediately after the vote.

"The House has spoken and this government will listen," she told MPs.

Therefore, tonight it looks as if Brexit has caused a Parliamentary deadlock. Arguably, the PM’s deal is dead and the opposition is unable to force an election. However, there is another way out. Mrs May also offered to work with senior politicians across Parliament. If she were to offer some concessions regarding the Customs Union, it may encourage the Labour leader to compromise and back a new deal.

However, whilst this could, in theory, command a majority in Parliament, it is dependent upon many factors.

  • Primarily, Mrs May would need to come up with a new deal - and fast.
  • Secondly, the EU has ruled out any renegotiations.
  • Finally, and most problematic, this would require both Mrs May and Mr Corbyn to place the national interest ahead of their respective party’s interests.