May suffers fresh Commons blow as MPs grab control of Brexit process
Theresa May was hit by further ministerial resignations last night after three ministers quit the government in order to back a rebel amendment granting MPs the power to organise key Brexit votes today.
Business minister Richard Harrington, health minister Steve Brine and Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt all went against the whip to vote in favour of an amendment tabled by anti-Brexit Tory Sir Oliver Letwin, which was passed by MPs last night by a majority of 27 votes.
It means MPs will today start voting on a series of alternative Brexit scenarios in a bid to identify where majority support lies in the Commons. However, the Prime Minister warned MPs yesterday that the government would not consider itself bound to honour any such vote, as it “could lead to an outcome that is unnegotiable with the EU”.
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The upset came after the Prime Minister yesterday admitted she still does not have enough support for her Brexit deal, amid increasing speculation about her future. Many of her own backbenchers are now calling for her to set a date for her departure from Number 10.
Despite the state of open rebellion within her party, the PM yesterday insisted she is still determined to deliver a form of Brexit that honours the referendum result.
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Speaking in the Commons for the first time since agreeing with the EU to delay the UK’s departure date, May warned those Brexiters holding out for a no-deal outcome that parliament would move to thwart their plans.
A “slow Brexit” could emerge as the UK enters into a long extension period with the EU, she said.
Yet May’s warnings appeared to anger those Tories she needs to win over, with senior Tory Sir Crispin Blunt saying her acceptance of a long delay was the “final torpedo” of her deal.
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If May’s deal is not voted through by Friday, the UK has until April 12 to put forward an alternative plan for Brexit to the EU.
Speaking in the Commons, May said: “The default outcome continues to be to leave with no deal. But this House has previously expressed its opposition to that path, and may very well do so again this week.”
She added: “If the House does not approve the withdrawal agreement this week, and is not prepared to countenance leaving without a deal we will have to seek a longer extension.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Where this government has failed, this House must, and I believe will, succeed.”