British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday suffered a humiliating defeat in the House of Commons after both ruling Conservative and main opposition Labour MPs voted to strengthen parliament’s hand in heading off a no-deal Brexit.
The cross-party group of MPs voted 303-296 in favor of an amendment to a bill submitted by Labour MP Yvette Cooper to curb government powers in bypassing parliament should Britain crash out of the EU without a deal.
The government’s defeat could boost MPs looking to use parliament to head off a no-deal Brexit or even push for a second referendum on the deal at hand.
“The majority tonight that is expressed in this house will sustain itself. We will not allow a no-deal exit to occur at the end of March,” said Sir Oliver Letwin, a Tory MP who defied his party’s whip to vote with Labour on the amendment.
Twenty Tory MPs defied the government whip to support Cooper’s amendment, including former Cabinet Minister Nicky Morgan, Sarah Wollaston, Nick Boles, and Sir Nicholas Soames.
The amendment, as it stands, will have little effect on no-deal preparations. However, it could galvanize support for future amendments on similar bills and prove that there is a parliamentary majority against a no-deal Brexit.
“I’m worried we could come to the crunch and parliament will not have the powers to stop [no deal] happening” Cooper said in the aftermath of the vote, adding: “I think we have a responsibility not to just stand by.”
Applauding the victory on the Commons floor was Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, who said that the vote was an important step in preventing a no-deal Brexit and that it shows there is no majority for it in parliament, the Cabinet, or the country.
May postponed the vote on the Brexit deal last month after admitting that her government would have faced a humiliating defeat.
The vote is set for Jan. 15, and May is still expected to lose after the DUP, which props up her government, have reiterated they will still vote against her deal over opposition to the Irish backstop arrangement.
May has also failed in renegotiating her deal with the EU, with officials in Brussels saying the deal on the table is non-negotiable./aa