Tuesday 3 September 2019 10:27 pm

March of the moderates: PM loses key Brexit vote to rebels

More than 20 Tory MPs have defied Boris Johnson and his threats of deselection to pave the way to block a no-deal Brexit.

Parliamentarians this evening voted 328-to-301 in favour of a motion giving MPs control of the order paper tomorrow. That means they can debate, and potentially pass, a bill that will force Johnson to seek an extension to Article 50 from European Council President Donald Tusk.

In total, 21 Tories voted against the government, despite being threatened with having the whip removed, effectively being sacked as a Conservative candidate.

Many, such as Alistair Burt, Justine Greening, and Father of the House Ken Clarke, had signalled their intention by saying they plan to stand down at the next election.

But many more, such as former chancellor Philip Hammond – who was reselected by his party association just yesterday – former justice secretary David Gauke and former immigration minister Caroline Nokes, will now await their fate.

Others include Rory Stewart, who has just been named GQ’s Politician of the Year, and Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Johnson’s hero Winston Churchill.

A Downing Street spokesman told City AM: “The chief whip is speaking to those Tory MPs who did not vote with the government this evening. They will have the Tory whip removed.”

But not Phillip Lee, who sensationally crossed the House to join the Liberal Democrats as Johnson took to the dispatch box earlier in the day.

Speaking immediately after the vote Johnson, who has repeatedly said he would not delay the process any further, told MPs he would call a General Election under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

“Let there be no doubt about the consequences of this vote tonight,” Johnson said. “It means that parliament is on the brink of wrecking any deal we might be able to strike in Brussels…  And that would mean more dither, more delay, more confusion. 

“I don’t want an election; the public don’t want an election, but if the House votes for this bill tomorrow the public will have to choose who goes to Brussels on 17 October to sort this out and take this country forward,” said Johnson.

“I don’t want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop the negotiations and to compel another pointless delay of Brexit, potentially for years, then that will be the only way to resolve this.”

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made it clear he would not back the Prime Minister’s move to call an election, which needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

“He wants to table a motion for an election,” said Corbyn. “Fine. Get a bill through first, in order to take no deal off the table.” Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson echoed those calls.

Despite the government’s Brexit strategy being thrown into turmoil, chancellor Sajid Javid is still expected to reveal £2bn of new Brexit funding during the spending review tomorrow.

The spending review, which is now likely to take the form of a written ministerial statement (WMS), will commit the cash for projects linked to Brexit delivery.

This includes funding for the Home Office to support Border Force capability, wider support around UK ports funded by the Department for Transport, and money for the Department for Business, Energy, Innovation and Skills (BEIS) to explore developing the UK’s own Global Navigation Satellite System.

It means more than £8.3bn will have been spent planning for and delivering Brexit since the referendum in 2016.

Main image: Getty