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Image / Editorial

‘Time is almost up’: Theresa May’s Brexit deal rejected by MPs


by Jennifer McShane
15th Jan 2019
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British Prime Minister Theresa May has lost the MPs’ vote on the Brexit deal by 432 votes to 202 – the biggest UK government defeat in history.

432 MPs voted against May’s withdrawal agreement, while 202 voted yes, resulting in a majority of 230.

May was expected to suffer a defeat, though the scale of this means that the proposed deal is unlikely to be salvaged. Plans for a hard Brexit are now being upped, according to various reports.

Related: Tonight’s Brexit vote: everything you need to know

She immediately announced that she would welcome a vote of no confidence in her own government, and would make time for it on Wednesday – she is expected to pass this after the Democratic Unionist party said it would back her – which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn immediately tabled.

If, however, the majority vote against May’s government, Labour will have two weeks to prove that it could form a government and gain a majority in parliament. If it can’t, the UK will have a general election and it will be up to the people to decide who is best to lead the government.

The government will likely postpone Article 50 in the event of a no vote, in order to give enough time for another vote and for other Brexit legislation to be passed. If she survives Wednesday’s vote, her focus will turn to the challenge of finding a majority for some form of Brexit.

Following the vote, May said: “The House has spoken and the government will listen” and offered cross-party talks with MPs across the House to determine a way forward.

What happens next? 

The path ahead is unclear, but we do know the clock is ticking.

Barely two-and-a-half months before Britain is due to leave the European Union – just 73 days away as it’s due to happen on March 29 – May’s defeat now paves the way for a range of outcomes, including May going back to Brussels to re-negotiate a Plan B. She has until January 21 to do this.

Immediately after the vote, European Council President Donald Tusk implied in a tweet that the UK should stay within the EU, suggesting the prime minister’s historic loss in parliament left a deal looking “impossible”.

European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker urged the British government to “clarify its intentions as soon as possible” while reminding the British parliament that “time is almost up”.

An amendment approved last week obliges the prime minister to return to the House by next Monday with a motion outlining what she plans to do next about Brexit.

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