No confidence motion in Theresa May is voted down

The House of Commons has voted down a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May tonight.

Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 6:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th January 2019, 3:36 pm
UK Parliament handout photo of Prime Minister Theresa May during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Photo: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy.

The Government won the vote by 325 votes to 306.

That means Mrs May will carry on as Prime Minister and the motion of no confidence was lost.

Earlier, Jeremy Corbyn accused Theresa May of failing to reach out across party lines in the wake of the crushing Commons defeat for her Brexit deal.

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The Labour leader said any previous prime minister would have resigned faced with such a massive loss, the worst in parliamentary history, on the most important issue facing the country.

Ministers insisted she did want to work with MPs to find a way forward which could command a majority in the Commons.

But opening the debate on a motion of no confidence, Mr Corbyn said there had been no offer of cross-party talks.

"There has been no communication on all-party talks. All the Prime Minister said was she might talk to some members of the House," he told the Commons.

"That isn't reaching out. That is not recognising the scale of the defeat they suffered last night."

Both Tory rebels and her allies in the DUP, who voted against the Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday evening, made clear they intended to support the Government.

But MPs on both the Remain and the Leave wings of the party warned she needed to make major changes to the deal if she is to get it through the Commons.

Mrs May confirmed she wanted to meet MPs from across Parliament before returning to the Commons on Monday to make a fresh statement on the way forward on Brexit.

She held talks with DUP leader Arlene Foster, who later described the discussions as "useful" and said she had made clear the Northern Irish party would "act in the national interest".

"Lessons will need to be learned from the vote in Parliament," said Mrs Foster. "The issue of the backstop needs to be dealt and we will continue to work to that end."

There was anger on the Labour side after Downing Street said Mrs May remained committed to securing an "independent trade policy" after Brexit, effectively ruling out a customs union with the EU which Labour backs.

A senior Downing Street source said: "One of the principles as we approach these talks is that we want to be able to do our own trade deals. That is incompatible with either 'a' or 'the' customs union."

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "She is now laying conditions down about those discussions which look as though they will prevent any discussion of a permanent customs union.

"That is what most of the other opposition parties support so she seems to be negating the discussions before they have even started."

The Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom said ministers wanted to speak to MPs who were prepared to engage "constructively" but accused Mr Corbyn of trying to "disrupt" the Government by attempting to force an election.

"He needs to come to the table and tell us what he wants to do. He has not put forward any specific constructive proposal and that is a problem," she said.

Responding to Mr Corbyn's no-confidence motion, Mrs May dismissed his call for a general election saying it would be "the worst thing we could do".

"It would deepen division when we need unity, it would bring chaos when we need certainty, and it would bring delay when we need to move forward," she told MPs.

Earlier, during Prime Minister's Questions, she appeared to leave open the door to a possible extension of the Article 50 withdrawal process, which will see Britain leave the EU on March 29, to allow more time for a deal.

Asked by Tory grandee Ken Clarke whether she would "modify her red lines" and extend Article 50, Mrs May said: "The Government's policy is that we are leaving the EU on March 29, but the European Union would only extend Article 50 if actually it was clear that there was a plan that was moving towards an agreed deal.

"That is the crucial element of ensuring we deliver on Brexit."

Meanwhile, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he "profoundly" regretted the Commons vote and added it was now up to the British Government to say how it intended to proceed.

"An orderly withdrawal will remain our absolute priority in the coming weeks," he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

He said there would be a "favourable response" from the EU side if Mrs May was prepared to re-think her negotiating "red lines" and seek a more "ambitious" deal with Brussels.

But he firmly rejected calls from some Conservative MPs and the DUP to drop the Northern Ireland "backstop", intended to ensure there is no hard border with the Republic.

"The backstop which we agreed to with the UK must remain a backstop. It must remain a credible backstop," he said.

That view was echoed by Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney who said Dublin was not prepared to consider alternatives to a backstop which it had taken two years to negotiate.

"We're not going to allow physical border infrastructure to reappear," he told RTE.

"I don't think the EU is in any mood to change the Withdrawal Agreement significantly at all."