Theresa May has suffered an embarrassing defeat over Brexit on a shambolic day for the government in the House of Commons. Probably aware of the result, May wasn’t present in the House.
Eurosceptic Conservatives refused to back a motion reiterating support for the prime minister’s negotiating strategy, fearing she might try and use it to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
The government motion was defeated by 258 votes to 303 – a majority of 45.
Jon Craig, Sky’s chief political correspondent, said it was “odd” for Theresa May to have stayed away from the chamber for this evening’s votes. He said this is a serious blow for the PM as she tries to continue negotiations. Other analysts said that the defeat will have no practical effect, but it will reverse the modest achievement she achieved two weeks ago when she secured a majority for a Brexit motion.
Jeremy Corbyn was reported saying that the Government cannot keep on ignoring parliament or ploughing on 29 March without a coherent plan. She can’t keep running down the clock and hoping that something will turn up or save her face. The Labour Leader criticised the Prime Minister for not attending the House of Commons this evening and urges her to return to the backstop with her plan.
Commentators said that seeing how hard she is finding it to maintain a Commons majority, EU leaders may feel even less inclined to offer her Brexit concessions than they already were.
The text of the motion said “That this house welcomes the prime minister’s statement of 12 February 2019; reiterates its support for the approach to leaving the EU expressed by this house on 29 January 2019 and notes that discussions between the UK and the EU on the Northern Ireland backstop are ongoing.”
Earlier an SNP amendment was defeated by 315 votes to 93 – a majority of 222.
Line 1, leave out from “House” to end and add “requires that a minister of the crown immediately begin negotiations with the European council to extend the period specified under article 50(3) of the treaty on European Union by no fewer than three months from 29 March 2019, and bring forward an appropriate amendment to section 20 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to facilitate this change.”.
Corbyn’s amendment was also defeated by 306-322. That’s 10 votes up on last time. In this regard commentators quoted by the Guardian said that the Labour leadership will be happy with that. They were pleased last time to get 296. They’ll say it shows growing support for their cross party approach and a softer Labour Brexit.
This is a Valentine’s Day massacre for the Government and a damning indictment of the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan.
“As well as enjoying another humiliating defeat, the Government has been forced into publishing its no-deal advice. Now we wait to see what these papers contain.
“No doubt, having been kept in the dark until now, they give further weight to the mountain of evidence that leaving the EU without a deal will be an economic, security and political catastrophe.
“The Prime Minister has nowhere left to hide. Her threats to throw the country off a cliff-edge if MPs do not vote for her deal will be exposed as deeply cynical by a leader more concerned with the future of her party than her country.
“She should now rule out no-deal and put her deal to a public vote with the option of remaining in the EU.”