Theresa May survives confidence vote

Tory backbenchers and MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party opted to stick with her rather than risk a general election.

LONDON — MPs in the House of Commons rejected a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May by 325 votes to 306.

Responding to the vote, May said she would meet with opposition party leaders to find a solution to the Brexit crisis. “I would like to invite the leaders of parliamentary parties to meet with me individually and I would like to start these meetings tonight. The government approaches these meetings in a constructive spirit and I urge others to do the same,” she said, adding, “We must find solutions that are negotiable and command sufficient support in this House.”

But Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared to rebuff the offer unless the government ruled out a no-deal Brexit. “Before there can be any positive discussions about the way forward the government must remove clearly, once and for all, the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal exit from the EU and all the chaos that would come as a result.”

Corbyn called the confidence vote in the wake of the crushing defeat Tuesday night of May’s Brexit deal at the hands of MPs. In a debate on the motion Wednesday, he said the prime minster was running a “zombie government” and she should “do the right thing and resign.”

But despite the scale of the opposition to the Brexit deal negotiated with Brussels, Tory backbenchers and the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her government, stuck with her. Supporting the no confidence motion would most likely have meant a general election with potentially heavy Tory losses resulting in a Corbyn-led Labour government.

During the preceding debate, May had argued that the path forward on Brexit lay in the hands of MPs, not a new government.

“We’re living through an historic moment in our nation’s history following the referendum that divided our country in half and last night’s vote showed that we do have a long way to go,” she said.

“But I don’t believe a general election is the path to do that. And I don’t believe that a government led by the leader of the opposition is the path to do that either. We must find the answer in this House among ourselves.”

Labour Deputy leader Tom Watson said May was, “too set in her ways, too aloof to lead. She lacks the imagination and agility to bring people with her. She lacks the authority on the world stage to negotiate this deal. Ultimately she has failed.”

Closing the debate, Environment Secretary Michael Gove praised May’s “inspirational leadership.” Criticizing Corbyn’s previous policies on NATO, nuclear arms and the military, Gove said there was “no way” MPs could allow him a path to becoming prime minister.

Brexit: What now?

MPs could force a delay to Brexit of 9 months.

LONDON — Put a faint cross through March 29, 2019. Pencil in December 31, 2019.

Now that Theresa May has survived the latest attempt to drag her from office — a no-confidence vote on Wednesday evening — she will face a parliamentary ambush designed to wrestle away control of the Brexit negotiations. That could result in Britain’s withdrawal being delayed for nine months.

A lot needs to happen before then.

Here’s what.

Thursday, January 16

By defeating Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s attempt to force a general election through a vote of no confidence in the government, the U.K. prime minister has bought herself time.

May said she would immediately begin negotiations with the leaders of parliamentary parties to try to find a compromise Brexit that could be negotiated with the EU.

British Prime Minister Theresa May | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The talks will include Tory and Democratic Unionist Party MPs who want to see more safeguards built into the Irish backstop, including a cutoff date or a unilateral exit mechanism, neither of which Brussels has said it is willing to accept.

Also up will be MPs from the Labour Party who want Brexit delivered, but a softer version with closer regulatory alignment with the EU, a permanent customs union and greater environmental and labor protections.

Justice Secretary David Gauke suggested the government might be willing to offer a full customs union as the price of a deal. “At this stage we are engaging with parliamentary opinion,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t think we can today be boxing ourselves in.”

The big danger for May now is that she loses control before she can make any progress.

Monday, January 20

Under the terms of a controversial amendment put forward by Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve and forced on the government by MPs earlier this month, the prime minister must return to parliament by Monday setting out how she plans to proceed following MPs’ rejection of her Brexit deal.

This will take the form of a motion in the House of Commons, which can be amended by MPs before a vote within seven working days. May’s aides have said they plan to move to a vote “quickly,” suggesting sometime that week.

EU officials are not expecting May to visit Brussels until the end of next week at the earliest, giving her a small window of time to find a new compromise package which most MPs now expect to lean heavily toward a softer Brexit along the lines sought by Tory rebels and Labour MPs.

The January ambush

The big danger for May now is that she loses control before she can make any progress.

This starts with an amendment being drawn up by Tory MP Nick Boles, which seeks to take a no-deal off the table and empower MPs to find a compromise Brexit acceptable to a majority of the House of Commons.

The idea is to amend the “Plan B” motion May is expected to lay on January 20, not simply to propose a different type of Brexit but to change parliamentary rules — so-called Standing Orders — to allow backbench MPs to rush through new legislation in a single day ruling out no deal.

Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament on January 15, 2019 in London | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

If the amendment secures a majority, it sets aside parliamentary time for a new EU Withdrawal Bill, which will take precedence over all government business.

Boles and his allies believe this bill could become law by mid-February and he is confident it has majority support.

Three-week window

The Boles law would give the government three further weeks to secure a new deal with the EU that has majority support in the Commons. This takes the country to early March, perilously close to Brexit Day on March 29.

At this point, the liaison committee — the most senior committee of the House — would be handed the power to obtain a majority in favor of an alternative plan.

The liaison committee — made up of committee chairs and led by the anti-Brexit Tory MP Sarah Wollaston — would become the de facto government of the U.K., with the actual government becoming the real opposition in all but name. The places in the Commons would stay the same, but the power would have shifted.

EU leaders (who must agree unanimously) have indicated that they would be open to an extension in pursuit of a defined aim, but not just to prolong the Brexit uncertainty.

Under the Boles plan, the government would be compelled to implement whatever is proposed by the liaison committee if it is approved by the House of Commons and agreed by the EU.

If the liaison committee fails in this task — or refuses — the Boles law, as currently drafted, would compel the government to seek a nine-month extension of the Article 50 process. 

Brexit get-out

What if the government and the liaison committee fail to come up with an alternative plan and then the European Union rejects the application for an extension to Article 50? EU leaders (who must agree unanimously) have indicated that they would be open to an extension in pursuit of a defined aim, but not just to prolong the Brexit uncertainty. If there is no plan they might refuse.

At this point, MPs opposed to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union want the government to unilaterally revoke Article 50, stopping Brexit in its tracks. Under the current Boles plan, the government would not be compelled to do so, though some MPs may seek to amend the plan to make this explicit.

Brussels waits for May to reach out to her opponents

EU leaders said there is room for changes if UK red lines shift.

EU to London: Talk it over and get back to us.

That’s the message from EU leaders who Tuesday night watched the Brexit deal painstakingly negotiated with Theresa May’s government go down to a crushing defeat in the House of Commons.

EU leaders in Brussels and capitals across the Continent expressed regret at the result and vowed to step up emergency planning for a no-deal scenario — something the EU is now “fearing more than ever,” according to Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

But the focus, according to senior EU officials, has now shifted to the sequencing laid out by May on Tuesday night in the wake of the historic defeat.

Even as Brexiteers on May’s backbenches were claiming the vote gave her a mandate for new negotiations, she pledged to begin a new dialogue with MPs across the aisle, on a plan that could win the support of the majority of the House. If that results in a softening of May’s red lines, then new possibilities might open up in Brussels.

“Brexit will do harm, to the United Kingdom, to the European Union. It is our collective responsibility to limit that harm as much as possible.” — Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans

Assuming May survives a no confidence vote in her leadership, as she is widely expected to do, Brussels first wants to see what May can achieve.

“Only after that dialogue in the U.K. parliament about where to go from here, only after that can there be a new dialogue with Brussels,” a senior EU official said.

Open line

At the European Council summit in December, where May’s request for additional legal assurances was rebuffed, one EU official noted that the European Commission seemed to have a more open line of communication to U.K. opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, than she did.

For the other EU leaders, all veterans of legislative battles in their own national parliaments, that lack of communication was a clear signal that May had failed to do the necessary spade work to cobble together a majority behind the deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The message from Dublin Wednesday was that that work can only be done in London.

“We should never forget that Brexit is a British policy that originated in Westminster,” said Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister. “After months of negotiation, we found a solution. That solution has now been rejected by Westminster. The problem now lies there.”

“The onus is on Westminster to come up with solutions they can support and that Europe can accept,” he added.

“The ball is in the field of our British friends,” echoed Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party group in the Parliament and the front-runner candidate for Commission president. “Please, please tell us finally: What do you want to achieve?”

But while Brussels isn’t going to offer up any concessions until the U.K. clarifies its position, the EU’s stance is not set in stone. “We have always said that if the United Kingdom were to evolve from its red lines on the customs union and the single market, that the European position could also evolve,” said Varadkar.

Wait and see

At the Commission’s daily midday briefing, Chief Spokesperson Margaritis Schinas repeated the wait-and-see mantra. “There’s nothing else we can do at this stage,” he said. And while he said the 585-page Withdrawal Agreement would not be renegotiated, there was more flexibility over the Political Declaration document. The idea was not “far from reality,” Schinas said.

Meanwhile, officials said there was no pressure whatsoever on Dublin to give any ground on the “backstop” provision on the Northern Ireland border. Speaking to MEPs, Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans, declared the backstop “non-negotiable” — no matter that many British MPs said it was their reason for opposing ratification.

First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans | Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

Timmermans led the Commission’s response at the start of a debate Wednesday morning at the plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where he warned that Brexit would be damaging whether there is a deal or not.

“Let’s not create the illusion that this could be a process without harm,” Timmermans said. “Brexit will do harm, to the United Kingdom, to the European Union. It is our collective responsibility to limit that harm as much as possible.”

He again warned MPs in London about expecting to cherry-pick EU benefits. “You can’t honestly say ‘I’m going to leave the European Union but I’m going to take with me everything I like, regardless of what that does to the European Union.’”

In closing, Timmermans turned to an oracle of political wisdom — the Rolling Stones. “You can’t always get what you want,” he said, “but if you try sometimes you might get what you need.”

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email pro@politico.eu for a complimentary trial.


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David Cameron: ‘I don’t regret’ calling Brexit referendum

Former PM says he supports Theresa May and hopes MPs ‘come together’ to find an agreement with the EU.

Former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, said he did not regret that decision.

Cameron told the BBC, as he headed off for a morning run on Wednesday: “I don’t regret calling the referendum. It was a promise I made two years before the 2015 general election — it was included in the manifesto, it was legislated for in parliament — six out of seven members of all parties voted for that referendum.”

Cameron said he did regret losing the campaign to stay in the EU, noting the “difficulties and the problems we’ve been having trying to implement the result of that referendum.”

Cameron resigned after the referendum and was replaced as prime minister by Theresa May, who will face a vote of confidence Wednesday evening after British MPs overwhelmingly rejected May’s Brexit deal.

Cameron said he hoped May wins the vote of confidence, adding he was “sure she will.”

“I hope then that parliament can come together and find an alternative partnership agreement with the European Union, that’s the right way forward, that’s what her deal was about last night and she has my support as she does this,” Cameron said.


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Hardline Brexiteers, DUP to support Theresa May in confidence vote

The Democratic Unionist Party also says it will support the PM — for now.

Members of the Tory party’s Euroskeptic European Research Group will support Prime Minister Theresa May in a vote of confidence to be held Wednesday evening, the group’s deputy chairman said.

“We are going to vote with the government in the confidence motion,” Conservative MP Steve Baker told BBC 4’s Today program Wednesday. “We’re conservatives, we’re going to support the conservative government.”

On Tuesday, British MPs, including those in the ERG, rejected May’s Brexit deal by a record-breaking 230 votes.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which also voted against May’s deal, also said it will support the prime minister in the confidence vote. The party “never wanted a change of government, we wanted a change of policy,” DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson told the BBC. “Go back to the EU and make it clear this deal’s not going to work,” he added.

Baker said the ERG would vote in favor of a Brexit deal if the problem of the Irish border was resolved, adding that if May could do that, she “might even be remembered as the greatest prime minister we’ve had, even now.”

He added: “Everybody wants a deal.”

German minister says UK should be given more time on Brexit

There appears to be no parliamentary majority for a no-deal Brexit, Peter Altmaier says.

Berlin is signaling that London should be given more time to figure out its position after the crushing rejection of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal by the House of Commons.

“The first conclusion I can draw from all I have seen and witnessed is that apparently there is no majority for a no-deal Brexit,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the BBC’s Today program. “This is a very important message because it would calm down markets, it would preserve jobs on both sides of the channel.”

“I have not yet seen a clear position on how to proceed further,” Altmaier said. “The U.K. should have sufficient time to clarify its position and, if needed, the European Union should allow for additional time in order to achieve a clear position by the British parliament and people.”

Asked about a potential extension of Article 50, the minister said that “we should wait until parliament has come to the conclusions, and then we should consider what we can do. When parliament needs more time, then this is something that certainly will have be considered by the European Council. Personally, I would see this as a reasonable request.”

The European Commission made it clear that there is no room for manoeuvre on the deal, Altmeier said, adding, however, that when it comes to an “acceptable approach” on how to move forward, “then of course we should all be ready to cooperate.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it was not clear what the U.K. wanted | Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

The minister’s comments echoed a tweet by Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas.

“In terms of things #Brexit, the ball is now in the UK’s court,” the foreign minister wrote. “It didn’t become clear yesterday what they want — just what they don’t want,” he tweeted, noting that “in Germany, we have passed two major legislative packages in order to be prepared for everything. But: We hope for reason.”

In Brussels, officials are cautious about what comes next.

The ball “has been and is still on U.K.’s side,” said one EU diplomat.

For many officials, now is the time to intensify preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit.

“I believe that it’s now up to the British government to clarify further its intentions but as the risk of a no-deal Brexit has unfortunately increased, the EU27 should also take all necessary steps to ensure that they are prepared for all eventualities as the date is approaching,” said another EU diplomat.

Some diplomats said the focus should now be on making sure the bloc’s remaining members stick together.

A third diplomat suggested the bloc should “keep calm, ensure unity among the EU27 and — if wished for — provide our British friends with the phone number of a good shrink.”


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British politics goes over a cliff

Despite the defeat of historic proportions, the prime minister’s aides intend to resuscitate the Brexit deal.

LONDON — British politics is broken. It may not be fixable in time to solve the Brexit mess.

The U.K. wakes up Wednesday with a government unable to govern — in office, but without the numbers to fulfill its central purpose: a negotiated exit from the European Union.

A defeat of previously unimaginable proportions Tuesday — 432 to 202 — has left the country adrift, floating towards no deal, with no party or faction in parliament able to command a majority for any way of moving off the course it has set for itself. The only thing MPs can agree strongly on is a desire to avoid an economically damaging no deal, but they currently can’t settle on a mechanism for how to do so.

Faced with disaster, Theresa May has a plan but no strategy — the Churchillian maxim, “Keep Buggering On.”

“KBO prime minister, KBO,” one loyal government minister urged her Tuesday in the House of Commons in the run up to the vote she knew she was going to lose. May smiled and nodded in agreement. Right now, it is all she’s got.

May’s aides are clear: She is not giving up on her deal, despite the scale of the defeat. And she’s not quitting.

The game is now an even more intense fight for survival from one day to the next in the hope that something — anything — changes, but with little hope that it will.

Britain is now entering a period of rolling, daily crises with no obvious way out, its political class unable — or unwilling — to reach a compromise way to leave the European Union. Remainers and Brexiteers alike are convinced that voting against the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement takes them closer to their own desired outcome.

One side is making a miscalculation of historic proportions.

No confidence

The rolling crisis kicks off with a bang Wednesday with a vote of no confidence in the government, which if successful will trigger a general election if no alternative government can be found within 14 days.

Despite shouts of “resign” from MPs Tuesday, however, May made clear she has no intention of quitting. Instead she intends to fight to stay in power. “KBO.”

Should she survive the vote, which will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday — and every indication is that she will — May will find herself back in the same trap of her own making: a prime minister without power.

Out of the mess, however, two things did change Tuesday night, which MPs believe signal the direction of travel May now intends to take to avoid Britain leaving the European Union without a deal on March 29.

In her statement to parliament after the crushing result of the vote was announced, for the first time May formally reached out to leading opposition MPs.

“It is clear that the House does not support this deal,” May told MPs. “But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support. Nothing about how — or even if — it intends to honor the decision the British people took in a referendum parliament decided to hold.”

May said if she survived Wednesday’s attempt to force her government from power, she would work to find a compromise “genuinely negotiable” with Brussels.

In other words, unless the Brexiteers revise their expectations, May will be forced to look to Labour for compromises.

If a compromise can be found, May will take it to Brussels. In a briefing to journalists Tuesday night, May’s spokesman said the government would table a motion on its next steps on Monday next week before holding a vote on this new plan “quickly” afterwards — likely sometime that week.

The fury among MPs is that it has taken this long to reach this point.

Former No. 10 policy chief George Freeman, who reluctantly backed the deal, said the only way from here was to a softer Brexit. “Tonight the hardline Brexiteers think they have made no deal more likely, but actually what they have done is make no Brexit more likely or a much softer Brexit. You couldn’t make it up.”

However, he cast doubt on whether May was able to build a compromise deal with Labour. “The real question,” he said, was “is [Theresa May] able and really willing to reach out and do what for two and a half years she has absolutely refused to do, which is build a cross-party consensus. And will they trust her to do that?”

The second big change announced by May Tuesday is that “no deal is better than a bad deal” has all but disappeared as government policy. Instead, May told MPs voters did not vote for no deal because they had been told an agreement would be easy to reach with Brussels.

Should May survive Wednesday’s attempt to force a general election, she finds herself in a race against time to find a compromise package negotiable with Brussels.

Brussels also wants to know what might command a majority in parliament. “I want to know what kind of deal the House of Commons really wants,” the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt asked.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also called for clarity. “I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up,” he said.

Donald Tusk, the European Council leader, appeared to call for Brexit to be abandoned altogether. “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” he said.

In Westminster, a lot more is now in play.

May’s spokesman said the prime minister could work with Labour MPs to bulk up guarantees on workers’ rights, as well as those across the House who wanted to find a way to rule out no deal.

“We want to leave with a deal and will work with others who share that,” the spokesman said.

Behind the scenes, the government is weighing even more radical options. One idea floated by an influential government minister was to offer MPs a free vote — freeing MPs from voting on party lines. The idea is to bust open the party-political system to allow Labour MPs to back the deal. The Tory minister who spoke to POLITICO said Labour would feel compelled to follow the Tories if they gave their MPs a free vote, though Corbyn may have other ideas.

Despite the conciliatory tone, May’s advisers said the “principles” behind the government’s negotiating strategy would not be bargained away. The government wants to avoid no deal, while also guaranteeing an independent trade policy and U.K. control over its “money, borders and laws.”

May’s aides also said she was still determined to leave on March 29.

Talks with opposition MPs will begin Thursday, the aides said.

A motion will then be tabled Monday setting out the government’s next steps. This motion will be amendable, giving MPs the chance to test out alternative options, from a second referendum, super-soft “Norway”-style exit or a permanent customs union. Right now, none appears to have majority support in the House of Commons.

Despite the scale of the defeat Tuesday — which Labour said had left the proposed exit deal “dead” — May and her most senior Cabinet colleagues and advisers appear to believe it can be resuscitated.

In the House of Commons before the vote, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told MPs: “This Withdrawal Agreement will have to return in much the same form, with much the same content. Therefore, there is no serious or credible objection that has been advanced by any party to the Withdrawal Agreement.”

May wrapped up her remarks after the defeat with a promise to voters that she had not given up. “The government has heard what the House has said tonight, but I ask members on all sides of the House to listen to the British people, who want this issue settled, and to work with the government to do just that.”

In other words: May is buggering on.

Analysis: How the Brexit vote panned out

There were 118 Tory rebels, but just 3 Labour MPs voted against their leadership.

LONDON — A defeat of historic proportions.

Theresa May lost by a thumping majority of 230, greater than the 166 endured by Ramsey MacDonald’s minority Labour government in 1924.

Her eleventh-hour pleas for support fell on the deaf ears among 118 MPs from her party and the 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs who prop up her government. On the other side of the House of Commons, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s stance was challenged by just three of his MPs, and the veteran Labour MP Frank Field, who sits as an independent.

Here is the POLITICO guide to how MPs in different Brexit factions voted and what it could mean for the future of the U.K.’s exit from the European Union.

No deal, no problem

May would likely have fallen off the green front bench if the leading lights of the hard-Brexit European Research Group such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker had backed her deal. Veteran Euroskeptics, including Bernard Jenkin, Bill Cash and the recently knighted John Redwood, are no strangers to rebelling on European votes, and they were unlikely to change the habit of a lifetime on the biggest one yet. The opposition lobby is their natural habitat.

British Prime Minister Theresa May | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

More compromises from Europe are unlikely to sway this group behind a deal which leaves the U.K. even remotely tied to the bloc after it leaves.

Brexiteers, but usually loyal

The backbench chairman of Conservative MPs Graham Brady was among the rebels — a sure sign the momentum in the party is against the prime minister. When figures like the Colchester MP Will Quince, North Cornwall MP Scott Mann and North East Hampshire MP Ranil Jayawardena  — who had all been on the first rung of the government career ladder — are against you, something is wrong.

And being given trade envoy status did not prompt the likes of  Pauline Latham, Tim Loughton, Mark Pritchard and Andrew Rosindell to swing behind the government. A raft of former Brexiteer ministers, including the former Brexit secretaries David Davis and Dominic Raab, also marched through the lobbies against May’s deal.

Former Remainers

If May thought Remain-leaning MPs would get behind her deal, she was mistaken. Former Cabinet ministers like Michael Fallon voted against the plan. Former Trade Minister Greg Hands, who backed Remain in 2016, voted against. Even former Chief Whip Mark Harper rebelled for the first time — something May’s team would have been unlikely to see coming.

There have been glimmers of hope for May with MPs declaring they would back her deal with a heavy heart.

Second referendum supporters

The number of Tory MPs who judge the only way out of the current impasse is to go back to the people has grown steadily over the last few months. Former Transport Minister Jo Johnson (brother of Brexiteer and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson) is among the ex-ministers pushing to go back to the people.

Others formerly on of the government payroll — Philip Lee, Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve and Sam Gyimah — all believe the chance of a second referendum is more palatable than May’s agreement with the EU27.

Reluctant backers

There have been glimmers of hope for May with MPs declaring they would back her deal with a heavy heart. May’s former policy chief George Freeman, a proponent of a softer Brexit, had flirted with rebellion, but announced last week that he would reluctantly back May.

Brexiteer Geoffrey Clifton-Brown gave hope at the weekend to May, citing his fear that Brexit would be reversed if he did not rally behind the prime minister. Veteran Brexiteers Desmond Swayne and Edward Leigh also rallied behind the deal.

Mike Wood, a parliamentary private secretary who had flirted with resignation, backed the deal in the end.  These waverers are not necessarily MPs May can bank on in any future parliamentary showdown if the next step is not to their liking.

Labour rebels

There were only three who defied the party leadership to back May’s deal. Or four if you count veteran Labour MP Frank Field who is currently sitting as an independent, after resigning the party whip in the midst of the party’s anti-Semitism crisis. Ian Austin, one of the three rebels, is also at odds with the Labour leadership over its handling of anti-Semitism.

“People’s Vote” supporters dance and listen to speeches during a demonstration in Parliament Square on January 15 | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Austin’s Dudley North constituency is among the top 20 with the strongest support for Brexit.  The other two rebels, Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron and Bassetlaw MP John Mann, also represent strongly Leave-supporting constituencies.

Labour letdowns (for May)

A number of Labour MPs in constituencies which voted strongly for Brexit had previously left the door open to backing May’s deal. Most did not walk through it.

Among them were the Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and Don Valley MP Caroline Flint. Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for the Remain-backing Poplar and Limehouse constituency, had argued that May’s deal is the only real alternative given the ticking Article 50 clock and indicated he might back her. In the end he voted against the deal.

Labour people’s vote

Around 60 Labour MPs, many uncomfortable with their leadership’s Brexit approach, find the idea of no-deal abhorrent. But they think they can still see a path to a second referendum. So for now they are part of the broad opposition to May’s deal.


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How the Brexit vote was lost

A look at Theresa May’s defeat in graphics and charts.

Theresa May’s Brexit deal was defeated by 432 votes to 202 — a majority of 230. Scores of her own backbenchers rejected the deal but she did pick up a handful of opposition votes.

Using POLITICO Pro Intelligence, we’ve analyzed how the vote was lost.

The voting data and visuals in this article are powered by POLITICO Pro Intelligence, a brand new platform that uses powerful technology to provide policy data and insights tailored to your needs. To request a trial of Pro Intelligence, email pro@politico.eu.

EU urges UK government to clarify Brexit intentions

The bloc vowed to step up no-deal preparations.

Responding swiftly to the British Parliament’s crushing rejection of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the remaining EU27 countries urged the U.K. government to make clear its next steps as soon as possible.

“We regret the outcome of the vote, and urge the U.K government to clarify its intentions with respect to its next steps as soon as possible,” a spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk said after consultations Tuesday evening with the 27 heads of state and government.

Tusk himself made a heavy hint in a tweet that the size of the defeat meant Brexit may not come about: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?”

“The EU27 will remain united and responsible as we have been throughout the entire process and will seek to reduce the damage caused by Brexit,” the spokesman, Preben Aamann said.

“We will continue our preparations for all outcomes, including a no-deal scenario. The risk of a disorderly exit has increased with this vote and, while we do not want this to happen, we will be prepared for it.”

“We will continue the EU’s process of ratification of the agreement reached with the U.K. government,”  Aamann said. “This agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.”

Tusk returned to Brussels to await the outcome of the U.K. Parliament vote on Tuesday from his hometown of Gdańsk, Poland where he had joined mourners of the assassinated mayor, Paweł Adamowicz, who was fatally stabbed at a charity event on Sunday.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker echoed Tusk’s sentiments in his own statement demanding clarity from London.

“I take note with regret of the outcome of the vote in the House of Commons this evening,” Juncker said. “On the EU side, the process of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement continues.”

Juncker reiterated his belief that the deal was solid and the only way forward. “The Withdrawal Agreement is a fair compromise and the best possible deal. It reduces the damage caused by Brexit for citizens and businesses across Europe,” he said.

“It is the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.” He added, “ I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up.”

In response to the result, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: “The UK Parliament has said what it doesn’t want. Now is the time to find out what UK parliamentarians want. In the meantime, the rights of citizens must be safeguarded.”


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