As expected, the “soft” Brexit plan that Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the European Union suffered a defeat in the House of Commons yesterday. And it wasn’t simply a defeat, it was a loss of gargantuan proportions.
The withdrawal agreement was defeated by a vote of 432-202, the single largest defeat for a prime minister in the history of the House of Commons. While most expected a defeat, the gigantic margin of defeat casts doubt on May’s ability to gain any more concessions from Brussels or lead the U.K. government going forward.
“The House has spoken and the Government will listen,” May said after the disastrous defeat. “It is clear that the House does not support this deal. But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support. Nothing about how — or even if — it intends to honor the decision the people took in a referendum the Parliament decided to hold.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn shelved a no-confidence vote for today, but is expected to bring it up again as early as tomorrow. If the no-confidence vote passes, it could lead to snap elections to pick a new prime minister within a few weeks.
“Her governing principle of delay and denial has reached the end of the line,” Corbyn said in the House of Commons after the vote. “She cannot seriously believe that after two years of failure she is capable of negotiating a good deal for the people of this country. The most important issue facing us is that the government has lost the confidence of this House and this country.”
While May is likely to face pressure from some in her own Conservative, or Tory, Party to resign, Corbyn may not have the votes to officially oust her. In December, May survived a no-confidence vote from her own party, which protects her within her own party for a year. It’s doubtful that many Tories will cross over and vote with Labour for no-confidence. The Tories’ ally in the coalition government, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, has already signaled that they will back May in a no-confidence vote, whatever the outcome of her Brexit plan.
Because of an amendment passed in Commons last week, May now has three days to present a Plan B exit strategy to Parliament. In the best of times, such a task would be Herculean. In the current climate — with May’s leadership abilities in question — it may be impossible.
For the time being, the U.K. is still scheduled to leave the EU on March 29. Several scenarios are still possible. The U.K. could choose to remain on its current course and simply leave the EU on March 29 without a deal, a plan which many believe would result in economic chaos. The U.K. could go back to the EU under Article 50 of the EU Treaty and stall for more time to come up with a better deal. Or, Parliament may call for a new referendum on Brexit — a solution once thought unthinkable, but which is now gaining ground amid the chaos.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan jumped quickly on the new referendum bandwagon. “What happens next will define our future for decades to come. The only sensible course of action now is to withdraw Article 50 and give the British people the final say — with the option to stay in the EU.”
The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, reacted to the vote via Twitter. “I take note with regret of the outcome of the vote in the @HouseofCommons this evening. I urge the #UK to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up #Brexit.”
Boris Johnson, a hardline Brexiteer who in July resigned from May’s Cabinet in disgust over her “soft” Brexit plan, tweeted, “Tonight has made it clear that the current withdrawal agreement is dead. The government must now go back to Brussels and negotiate a #BetterDeal without the backstop.”
Nigel Farage, former leader of the U.K. Independence Party and one of the main voices in favor of Brexit, called today’s result “A catastrophic failure of leadership by Theresa May. If she has any sense of honor, then she will resign.”
Back in 2016, it seemed so simple. Now that globalist politicians have been fumbling over Brexit for the past two and a half years, it’s become a far greater mess than it ever had to be. While no-confidence votes and changing governments over the next few weeks and months will complicate things further, the answer still remains clear: A no-deal Brexit is the only thing that will allow for a fresh start. Great Britain can then negotiate its trade deals for itself. On its own terms.
Photo: AP Images