Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Theresa May wins confidence vote after Brexit defeat

UK Prime Minister comfortably defeats motion by 325 votes to 306

Theresa May accused opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of failing to have an alternative Brexit plan. UK Parliament/Reuters.
Theresa May accused opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of failing to have an alternative Brexit plan. UK Parliament/Reuters.

UK prime minister Theresa May comfortably survived a motion of no confidence in her government on Wednesday night, defeating the Labour motion by 325 MPs to 306.

The result had never seemed in question after hard-line Brexiteers from the Conservatives and Democratic Unionist Party who voted against the government on Brexit declared they would back Mrs May in the face of a general election threat despite having helped heavily defeat Mr May on Tuesday night.

Following the vote, Mrs May said "we have a responsibility to identify a way forward that can secure the backing of the House. To that end, I have proposed a series of meetings between senior parliamentarians and representatives of the government over the coming days.

"And I would like to invite the leaders of parliamentary parties to meet with me individually, and I would like to start these meetings tonight," she added.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn replied that "before there can be any positive discussions about the way forward the government must remove, clearly and once and for all, the prospect of the catastrophe of no deal and all the chaos that would come as a result of that."

Mr Corbyn's stand was backed by the leaders of the Scottish National Party in Westminster and the Liberal Democrats.

Speaking in parliament earlier on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn accused Mrs May of pursuing a "doomed strategy" to deliver a "botched" deal. Mr Corbyn, who has resisted Labour party members calling for a second referendum on the decision to leave the EU, said Mrs May should resign in the face of such a humiliating loss. "The scale of the crisis means we need a government with a fresh mandate,” he said.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who spoke to the prime minister, supported Labour's call for a new election, saying she had had not recognised the scale of the defeat her plan had suffered.

Arguments over the customs union, immigration and the contentious Irish backstop, an insurance policy to keep an open and frictionless border on the island of Ireland, have led to claims Mrs May is unwilling or unable to alter her plan.

David Gauke, the justice minister, said the government would have to re-examine all the previous limits on its negotiating position. "I don’t think today we should be boxing ourselves in,” he said.

Mrs May will now reach out to senior MPs to try and find a compromise that would allow a deal to pass through parliament but this may not include the Labour leader directly. Supporters of the prime minister said it would become clearer after the no confidence motion.

The Commons Brexit committee chaired by the former Labour cabinet minister Hillary Benn issued a report stating there were four options that should be put to vote to see if any could command a majority.

  • To hold another vote on the draft withdrawal agreement
  • To leave the EU with no deal on 29 March with no agreement
  • To seek to re-negotiate the deal to achieve a different specific outcome
  • To hold a second referendum to allow the British people to decide afresh

Mrs May meanwhile said a general election “would deepen divisions when we need unity, it would bring chaos when we need certainty” and be the “worst” possible development.

She also would not endorse holding a second referendum, saying it was the “duty" of the house of commons to deliver on the British people's vote in 2016 to leave the EU.

Failing to do so would leave the British people’s view on "parliament and politicians will be at an all-time low". She also insisted it remained the government’s policy to leave the EU on March 29 despite the rejection of her deal with the deadline looming.

A key ally to the prime minister, Damian Green, said she was up to the challenge of moving forward amid the deadlock.

The DUP’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds accused the prime minister of failing to listen to those in her party and Northern Ireland. He did, however say, the DUP would support Mrs May so she could have "more time and space to focus" on a fresh deal.

In the financial world, the size of the rejection led to a modest strengthening of the Pound against the Euro and a negligible rise against the dollar.

Bank of England chairman Mark Carney told another parliamentary committee the currency found support because of "some expectation that the process of resolution would be extended and that the prospect of no deal may have been diminished."

The UK's financial services supported remaining in the EU and has repeatedly warned against the devastating consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

The British Chambers of Commerce urged the government and parliament to do all it could to prevent a no deal.

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Read more:

UAE Britons watch nervously as Brexit threatens their retirement plans

Westminster remains a haven for serious exchanges amid the Brexit circus

Why Britain’s political crisis will run for weeks

EU split on renegotiating deal of Britain’s messy divorce

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"Basic questions on real-world operational issues remain unanswered, and firms now find themselves facing the unwelcome prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on March 29th," its statement said.

Mrs May’s predecessor David Cameron has shown his support for the prime minister and said he did not regret calling the 2016 referendum. "I do not regret calling the referendum," he said. "Obviously I regret that we lost that referendum. I deeply regret that.

"I was leading the campaign to stay in the European Union and obviously I regret the difficulties and problems we have been having in trying to implement the result of that referendum."

Updated: January 17, 2019 08:13 AM

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