13 Mar 2019

Second Brexit deal defeated: Last-ditch votes to come

9:46 am on 13 March 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May's EU withdrawal deal has been rejected by MPs for a second time, throwing her Brexit strategy into further confusion.

Pubgoers watch a television screen in Whitehall as John Bercow, Speaker of the House declares that Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal was defeated by 149 votes in an historic parliamentary vote on March 12, 2019.

Photo: Tolga AKMEN / AFP

MPs voted down her deal by 391 to 242 - a smaller defeat than when they rejected it in January.

The PM said MPs would tomorrow get a vote on whether the UK should leave without a deal on 29 March, which she said would be a free vote for Tories: a conscience vote rather than a vote simply along party lines.

If MPs vote to take no-deal off the table, another vote the next day would be held on whether Brexit should be delayed. It would seek an extension to article 50, the legal mechanism which has locked the UK into exiting the EU on 29 March.

  • Recap: UK MPs vote on Theresa May's amended Brexit deal
  • Announcing the free vote, Mrs May told MPs it was an issue of grave importance for the future of the country.

    "Just like the referendum, there are strongly held and equally legitimate views on both sides.

    "For that reason, I can confirm that this will be a free vote on this side of the House."

    A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit shows Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaking to the house after losing the second meaningful vote on the government's Brexit deal, in the House of Commons in London on March 12, 2019.

    Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons after her second Brexit deal defeat. Photo: AFP / PRU

    She said that the choices facing the UK were "unenviable", but because of the rejection of her deal, "they are choices that must be faced".

    Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the prime minister should now call a general election.

    He said a no-deal Brexit now had to be "taken off the table" - and Labour would continue to push its alternative Brexit proposals. He did not mention the party's commitment to back another referendum.

    The EU's Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said in a tweet: "The EU has done everything it can to help get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line. The impasse can only be solved in the UK. Our 'no-deal' preparations are now more important than ever before."

    Some 75 Conservative MPs voted against the PM's deal, compared with 118 who voted against it in January.

    Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which keeps her government in power, voted against the deal, along with Brexiteer Conservative backbenchers.

    The UK Labour Party, SNP and other opposition parties also rejected it but three Labour MPs - Kevin Barron, Caroline Flint and John Mann - voted for the prime minister's deal.

    "Allowing a free vote on no deal shows Theresa May has given up any pretence of leading the country," said a Labour Party spokeswoman.

    "Once again, she's putting her party's interests ahead of the public interest."

    Mrs May had earlier warned MPs that if they did not back her "improved deal" they risked "no Brexit at all".

    However, she failed to convince enough of them that concessions she had agreed at the last minute with the EU were the "legally-binding" changes they had demanded when they rejected the deal by 230 votes in January.

    - BBC

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