‘GOD HELP US!’ Despair and fury as May’s Brexit DESTROYED by MPs – PM vows to FIGHT ON

On the day the UK should have been leaving the EU, the Commons voted by 344 to 286 against the divorce arrangements between the Prime Minister and the bloc. Thirty-four Tory rebels held firm to defy the Prime Minister and side with Labour and other opposition parties against the package despite many Brexiteers including Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg dropping their opposition at last. EU chiefs announced an emergency Brussels summit for April 9 to try to agree the next step.

After the latest setback on a slimmed-down version of her deal, a clearly frustrated Mrs May hinted that a general election may be the only way to break the extraordinary parliamentary deadlock.

“I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House,” she said.

Downing Street aides insisted the Prime Minister did not believe an election was “in the national interest” however.

Mrs May is expected to trigger a fresh vote next week, pitting her deal against a rival plan for the UK to stay in an EU customs union, in yet another attempt to break the deadlock.

Downing Street officials took encouragement from the 58-vote margin of defeat, compared with much larger figures of 230 and 149 in two previous votes.

“A lot of people are holding their noses to back a deal they do not like, but things are coming our way,” said one Government source.

Another Whitehall insider said the Prime Minister still had some room for manoeuvre to try to pass her deal.

“Everyone needs to go away and have a serious think over the weekend. There’s a little way to go in the process yet,” the source said.


British Prime Minister Theresa May (Image: GETTY)

A Downing Street source said:  “Clearly there is more work to do. We are at least going in the right direction.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said ministers would continue to talk to the Democratic Unionist Party, which again voted against the deal, about further reassurances regarding the controversial “backstop” mechanism to keep Northern Ireland’s border with the Irish Republic open.

“What the Prime Minister wants is to secure a deal that allows us to leave as soon as possible. She is going to continue to press for that,” the spokesman said.

“We will continue to talk to MPs across the House of Commons. You can expect us to seek to continue discussions with the DUP about what more we can do in providing reassurance that Northern Ireland wouldn’t be left behind in any backstop.”

The vote was held during an emergency Commons sitting triggered by the Government to try to meet an EU deadline that could have fixed the UK’s departure from the EU to March 22.

It came on the day when the country had been due to quit the EU until the Prime Minister was forced to request a delay following the parliamentary deadlock over her deal.

Immediately after the vote, Mrs May said: “I think it should be a matter of profound regret to every member of this House that once again we have been unable to support leaving the European Union in an orderly fashion.


Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons today (Image: House of Commons/PA Wire)

“The implications of the House’s decision are grave.

“The legal default now is that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on 12 April, in just 14 days’ time.

“This is not enough time to agree, legislate for and ratify a deal, and yet the House has been clear it will not permit leaving without a deal, and so we will have to agree an alternative way forward.”

Mrs May warned that the UK will now almost certainly have to take part in May’s elections for the European Parliament under a lengthy Brexit delay.

Defiantly vowing to try once again to win a majority for her deal, she added: “This Government will continue to press the case for the orderly Brexit that the result of the referendum demands.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded by urging the Prime Minister – who earlier this week promised to stand down if her deal is approved by the Commons – to quit immediately to trigger a general election.

“The House has been clear this deal now has to change. There has to be an alternative found.


Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis (Image: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Labour’s promise to honour the referendum result lies in tatters

Brandon Lewis

“If the Prime Minister can’t accept that then she must go. Not at an indeterminate date in the future, but now, so that we can decide the future of this country through a general election,” he said.

Senior Tories were furious the Labour leader ordered his MPs to vote against the Withdrawal Agreement yesterday even though the Commons was only voting on the divorce deal and not the future relationship that has been the focus of opposition criticism.

Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said: “Labour’s promise to honour the referendum result lies in tatters. Any pretence that Labour respects the will of the British people has evaporated.

“Despite previously giving no objection to the terms of the withdrawal agreement, Labour voted it down anyway, blocking Brexit.

“Once again, Jeremy Corbyn has put his own political interests above the needs of the country.”

Tory Eurosceptic rebels urged the Prime Minister to give up on her deal and lead the country out of the EU without a deal on April 12.

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, who leading Brexiteer who voted against the deal, said: “This must be the final defeat for Theresa May’s Deal – it’s finished, and we must move on.

“It has not passed. It will not pass. I regret to say it is time for Theresa May to follow through on her words and make way so that a new leader can deliver a Withdrawal Agreement which will be passed by Parliament.

“This has been a tragic waste of time and energy for the country. We can waste no more.”

Ministers warned the vote increased the possibility of Brexit being cancelled.

Solicitor general Robert Buckland said: “The prospect of no Brexit is becoming a very real one indeed.”

He added: “We can’t guarantee we will get a further extension. That very much depends on what the French and other countries think. We are in completely uncharted waters.”

Business leaders expressed despair at the outcome of the vote last night.

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “Our global reputation was already tarnished, we end the week with it in tatters.”

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “On the day that we were supposed to be leaving the European Union, all we have is yet another political failure to chalk up.”


Former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dominic Raab (Image: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Other Tories who switched sides to back the deal yesterday included Dominic Raab, the former Brexit Secretary seen as a possible leadership contender.

Announcing his decision, Mr Raab told MPs: “I cannot countenance an even longer extension and I cannot countenance holding European elections in May.”

Tory backbencher Richard Drax, another switcher, said: “I personally feel utterly ashamed of myself for betraying everything I believed in, that this deal was a rotten deal.

“But for the sake of the party and the country I had to swallow everything I believe in and vote.

“Now we’ve lost that vote, there’s one thing the Prime Minister can do – get us out on April 12, get our country back and deliver what we promised.

“Because if we don’t – God help us.”


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