London, Jan 16 (IANS) British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been rejected by 230 votes — the largest margin for a sitting government in history, triggering the tabling of a no confidence motion against it.
The confidence vote was expected to be held at about 7 p.m. on Wednesday, reported the BBC.
On a day of extraordinary drama at Westminster, the House of Commons voted by 432 votes to 202 as Tories turned against May to reject her deal that sets out the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) on March 29.
Such a crushing defeat on a key piece of government legislation would have been expected to be followed by a prime ministerial resignation. But May signalled her intention to carry on in a statement immediately after the vote.
As noisy protesters from both sides of the Brexit divide massed outside in Parliament Square, May immediately rose to accept the verdict saying she would welcome a vote of no confidence in the government.
“The house has spoken and the government will listen,” she said. “It is clear that the house does not support this deal, but tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn then tabled a vote of no confidence in the government, which could trigger a general election.
Corbyn, speaking just before the vote , said May had “treated Brexit as a matter for the Conservative Party, rather than the good of the whole country”.
The defeat was a huge blow for May, who has spent more than two years hammering out a deal with the EU, reported the BBC.
The Brexit plan was aimed at bringing about an orderly departure from the EU and setting up a 21-month transition period to negotiate a free trade deal.
The UK is still on course to leave on March 29 but the defeat throws the manner of that departure — and the timing of it — into further doubt.
The vote was originally due to take place in December, but May delayed it to try and win the support of more MPs.
MPs who want either a further referendum, a softer version of the Brexit proposed by May, to stop Brexit altogether or to leave without a deal, would ramp up their efforts to get what they want, as a weakened Prime Minister has offered to listen to their arguments.
She has also offered cross-party talks to determine a way forward on Brexit, if she succeeded in winning the confidence vote later in the day, the BBC report added.
Former Foreign Secretary and leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson said it was a “bigger defeat than people have been expecting” — and it meant May’s deal was now “dead”.
But he said it gave the Prime Minister a “massive mandate to go back to Brussels” to negotiate a better deal, without the controversial Northern Ireland backstop and also indicated that he would back May in the no-confidence motion.
May has no plans to head to Brussels immediately, No 10 said, implying that the Prime Minister first needed to test what would be acceptable to the MPs, the Guardian said.
In Brussels, Donald Tusk, the European Council president, appeared to back a second referendum soon after the crushing result was announced, and urged her to offer a way forward.
May was expected to return to Brussels within days to consult with Tusk and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Officials said the EU was now in listening mode.
In a statement, Juncker urged the British government to “clarify its intentions as soon as possible”, and warned that “time is almost up”.
Should May win on Wednesday, Corbyn would come under intense pressure to throw his weight behind a second Brexit referendum but his spokesman said Labour did not rule out tabling another no-confidence motion at a later stage.