Brexit: Theresa May faces confidence vote after huge defeat

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Theresa May’s government faces a vote of no confidence later after MPs rejected the PM’s Brexit deal.

Labour launched the bid to trigger a general election after the deal setting out the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU was rejected by 230 votes.

However, one senior party figure has suggested it is unlikely to succeed, with Northern Ireland’s DUP and Tory rebels saying they will back the PM.

The confidence vote is expected to be held at about 1900 GMT.

Mrs May has told MPs she will return to the Commons with an alternative plan next week, provided she survives the confidence vote.

“The House has spoken and this government will listen,” she said on Tuesday, offering cross-party talks to determine a way forward.

MPs are set to debate the motion for about six hours following Prime Minister’s Questions at 1200, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saying it would allow them to give their verdict on “the sheer incompetence of this government”.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says that if the prime minister sees off the challenge, she will begin a series meetings with “senior Parliamentarians” on Thursday.

He said Mrs May intended to retain her “red lines” – ruling out Labour’s demand for a customs union with the EU – with sources suggesting compromising on this would risk cabinet resignations.

But first she must survive the confidence vote tabled by Mr Corbyn and backed by MPs from the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Green Party.

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner suggested Labour might have to force a series of confidence votes if it is to unseat the PM.

“The numbers are probably not there tomorrow,” he told the BBC. “We will hope that we can. But it is not about a one-off thing.”

Despite the government’s heavy loss in the Brexit vote, Conservative rebels are likely to come back on-side in the confidence vote.

Leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson said the huge defeat gave the PM a “massive mandate to go back to Brussels” to negotiate a better deal.

And DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party, which keeps Mrs May in power but opposed the deal, would back her in the confidence vote to “give the government the space to set out a plan”.


How a confidence motion works

By the BBC’s head of political research Peter Barnes

Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, UK general elections are only supposed to happen every five years. The next one is due in 2022.

But a vote of no confidence lets MPs decide on whether they want the government to continue. The motion must be worded: “That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.”

If a majority of MPs vote for the motion then it starts a 14-day countdown.

If during that time the current government, or any other alternative government cannot win a new vote of confidence, then an early general election would be called.

That election cannot happen for at least 25 working days.


The UK remains on course to leave the EU on 29 March but the defeat throws the manner of that departure – and the timing of it – into further doubt.

European leaders reacted to Tuesday’s vote with dismay but gave no indication they were willing to make concessions.

Several have warned of increased chances of a no-deal Brexit, which many MPs fear will cause chaos at ports and damage industry.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up.”

Source: bbc

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