Brexit vote: May defeated

Brexit supporters

Teresa May’s Brexit proposal suffered a humiliating defeat in the House of Commons yesterday, voted down by 432 – 202.

While the rejection was largely expected, the size of the No vote is unprecedented. This was the biggest defeat in the Commons for over 100 years.

Not only is it extremely embarrassing for Teresa May – it puts her fragile leadership in jeopardy; it also puts the Conservative government at risk, as Jeremy Corbyn, unsurprisingly, has called for a motion of no confidence in the government. What exactly this means for Britain now is unclear. With only 10 weeks to go until Britain is due to leave the EU, there does not appear to be enough time to negotiate another deal, and with the EU having played hardball all the way through the last 2 years of negotiations, nobody expects them to suddenly offer better terms which Britain could approve. On the contrary, the EU have stated that they will not renegotiate the agreement. quote.

“This is the most significant vote that any of us will ever be part of in our political careers,” she told lawmakers as debate ended. “The time has now come for all of is in this House to make a decision, … a decision that each of us will have to justify and live with for many years to come.”
But the deal was doomed by deep opposition from both sides of the divide over UK’s place in the bloc. Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal will leave Britain bound indefinitely to EU rules, while pro-EU politicians favour an even closer economic relationship with Europe. end quote.


The most contentious part of the deal is the “backstop” that is designed to prevent the reintroduction of border controls between the UK’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Although it was intended only as a temporary measure, even the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland voted against the deal, saying they wanted the prime minister to go back to the EU to get rid of the “backstop”. It is possible that she might do this, but with the margin of defeat being so large it is unlikely to result in a ‘yes’ vote.

Teresa May has been given until next Monday to come up with a new proposal, but such a mammoth task is not going to be completed in 5 days, particularly given the intransigent attitude of EU officials.

So the prospect of a ‘hard’ Brexit, where Britain leaves the EU without a deal, now looms large. This is unchartered territory for Britain, but with the March 29 deadline looming, it now looks to be the most likely outcome.

There is also the possibility of the ‘Customs Union’ (a group of states that have agreed to charge the same import duties as each other and usually to allow free trade among themselves), which Labour has proposed, but which has always been rejected by May. This was effectively what the EU was when Britain joined in the 1970s, but it has morphed into an undemocratic juggernaut since then. If this were to be accepted by the EU, which is unlikely, it would still require an extension of the departure date of March 29th.

All this provides a lot of uncertainty for Britain over the next couple of months. Personally, I think a hard Brexit will be the best outcome in the long term, but no one knows how things will pan out in the short term. Whatever happens, things will be very interesting in British politics this year. Watch this space.