The government was defeated again tonight, this time by four votes, as MPs approved an amendment that clearly rejected ‘no deal’. It replaced the government’s ‘no deal’ motion with a more straight-forward rejection of the idea that the UK could leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement.
Tory backbencher Caroline Spelman, under whose name the amendment was tabled, tried to withdraw the amendment after the government decided to whip against it – but Speaker Bercow said she could not do so. Spelman chose not to move her amendment, which prompted Labour’s Yvette Cooper – who had also signed it – to formally move it instead.
The fresh blow to Theresa May’s premiership comes after her Brexit deal was heavily defeated for a second time on Tuesday evening. However, the amended motion does not change that the legal default is ‘no deal’, an outcome that can only prevented by MPs approving a deal or revoking Article 50.
Amendment (f), which put forward a plan known as the Malthouse Compromise, was decisively rejected by a majority of 210 votes. Tory MPs had a free vote, despite May having earlier today rejected the most crucial part of the proposal. Four Labour rebels defied the whip to vote for the Malthouse Compromise: Ronnie Campbell, Kate Hoey, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer.
The main motion was supposed to a free vote for Tories, but they started whipping against it once the Spelman amendment passed. Nonetheless, in the final vote of the evening, MPs approved the motion with 321 in favour and 278 against – a majority of 43 votes.
13 ministers including four cabinet ministers – David Gauke, Amber Rudd, David Mundell and Greg Clark – defied the Tory whip to abstain from voting on the main motion. They have not yet resigned and Downing Street has suggested they will not be sacked.
Addressing the House of Commons following the results, Jeremy Corbyn said: “Parliament must now take control of the situation. In the days that follow, myself, the Shadow Brexit Secretary and others will have meetings with members across this House to find a compromise solution that can command support in the House. This means doing what the Prime Minister failed to do two years ago: search for a consensus on the way forward.
“Labour has set out a credible alternative plan. Honourable members across this House are coming forward with proposals, whether that’s for a permanent customs union, a public vote, Norway Plus or other ideas. Let us, as a House of Commons, work now to find a solution.”
Responding to the results, Theresa May announced that there will be an extension to Article 50. She told MPs that the delay to Brexit would be short if a deal is agreed by the Commons by Wednesday 20th March, but the length would be decided by the EU – and possibly much longer – is no deal is agreed.
This is set out in the government’s motion tabled for tomorrow:
Govt motion for tomorrow: pic.twitter.com/neeTxcjvTo
— Labour Whips (@labourwhips) March 13, 2019
Amendment (a): Ayes 312 – Noes 308
Amendment (f): Ayes 164 – Noes 374
‘No deal’ motion: Ayes 321 – Noes 278
Amendment (a): Ronnie Campbell, Stephen Hepburn, Kate Hoey, John Mann, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer voted against. Kevin Barron and Mohammad Yasin abstained.
Amendment (f): Ronnie Campbell, Kate Hoey, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer voted in favour. No abstentions.
‘No deal’ motion: Stephen Hepburn and Kate Hoey voted against. Kevin Barron, John Mann and Graham Stringer abstained.
(Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s local government spokesperson, could not be in parliament to vote tonight. He tweeted his explanation.)