Theresa May faces MPs ahead of confidence vote

Theresa May faces MPs ahead of confidence vote

Theresa May faces a vote of no confidence after suffering a massive parliamentary defeat over her controversial EU Withdrawal Agreement.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

British MPs rejected the British PM’s Brexit deal by 432 votes to 202 on Tuesday evening and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Commons the “catastrophic” defeat was an “absolutely decisive” verdict on her Brexit negotiations.

He tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government which could force an early general election if it wins the support of more than 50% of MPs.

At Prime Minister's Questions today, Mr Corbyn accused Mrs May of being "in denial" about the heavy Commons defeat inflicted by British MPs on her Brexit deal.

The British Labour leader asked the Prime Minister if she was ruling out "any form of customs union" with the EU as part of her attempts to secure a consensus.

Mrs May said she would be listening to the views of MPs to identify what could command the support of the Commons and deliver on the EU referendum result.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Corbyn added: "My question was about the customs union. The Prime Minister seems to be in denial about that, just as much as she's in denial about the decision made by the House last night.

"I understand the Business Secretary (Greg Clark) told business leaders on a conference call last night 'We can't have no deal for all the reasons you've set out'.

"Can the Prime Minister now reassure the House, businesses and the country, and confirm that is indeed the Government's position that we can't have no deal?"

Theresa May faces MPs ahead of confidence vote

Mrs May said Mr Clark was making the point that a deal is required to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

She went on: "There are actually two ways of avoiding no-deal - the first is to agree a deal and the second would be to revoke Article 50.

"Now, that would mean staying in the European Union, failing to respect the result of the referendum, and that is something that this Government will not do."

Mr Corbyn then accused the Prime Minister of failing the country and said any other prime minister would have resigned.

He said: "This Government has failed our country - it cannot govern.

"It cannot command the support of most people and, facing the most important issue at the moment, which is Brexit, they failed again and lost the vote last night.

"Isn't is the case, Mr Speaker, that any other prime minister faced with the scale of defeat last night would have resigned and this country would be able to choose the Government that they want?"

Responding to the British Labour leader's accusations of failure over Brexit, Mrs May hit back, saying he had no plan himself.

She said: "He talked about the importance of the issue of Brexit that is facing this country.

"Later today, we're going to have the no-confidence debate - he has been calling for weeks for a general election in this country - and yet on Sunday when he was asked in a general election would he campaign to leave the EU, he refused to answer.

"Not once, not twice, not three times, but five times he refused to answer.

"So, on what he himself describes as the key issue facing this country, he has no answer."

Theresa May later warned MPs that if Brexit was not delivered the reputation of politicians in the UK would "be at an all-time low".

Mrs May, in response to a question from Tory former minister Helen Grant, said: "I do believe that if we fail to deliver on what the British people instructed us to do in the vote of the referendum that the views of the British people of this House of Parliament and of politicians will be at an all-time low.

"They will have lost faith in politicians across the whole of this Parliament, we need to deliver Brexit for the British people."

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the PM had suffered a "historic and humiliating defeat" and should now call for a second referendum.

The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber claimed the EU had ruled out renegotiating Mrs May's deal and asked: "If the Prime Minister survives today to bring forward her 'plan B', will she concede that 'plan B' will basically be a redressing of 'plan A'?"

She responded that her plan was to "listen to Parliamentarians and find out what is it that would secure the backing of this House".

Mr Blackford said the PM "simply didn't address the question", saying she has "failed" and that "Westminster is in chaos".

He said Mrs May "must now seek the confidence of the people, not just this House, extend Article 50 and ask the people if they want the Prime Minister's deal or remain in the EU."

After adding that she "must legislate for a people's vote", Mrs May hit back, saying: "This House legislated for a people's vote, it legislated for a people's vote that was held in 2016, and that vote determined the UK should leave the European Union."

Conservative former cabinet minister Ken Clarke said: "It seems to me that the only clear majorities in this House on a cross-party basis are firstly against leaving with no-deal, in favour of extending Article 50 to give us time to sort out what it is we now propose to do, and in favour of a customs union and some sufficient regulatory alignment to keep all our borders between the United Kingdom and the European Union open after we leave."

Mr Clarke's last suggestion prompted groans from Tory colleagues before he said Mrs May must accept she needs to "modify her red lines ... and find a cross-party majority, which will be along the lines that I have indicated".

Mrs May, in her reply, reiterated the Government wants the UK to leave the EU on March 29, adding: "The EU would only extend Article 50 if actually it was clear there was a plan that was moving towards an agreed deal."

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