FEARS of a new General Election spiralled among MPs last night as a yet another crippling Commons defeat saw the Government lose control of Brexit.
After going down to another three figure defeat, Theresa May was last night forced to open up Parliament to days of high stakes votes on various Brexit options in a bid to find a way through the deadlock.
Facing another night of humiliation, a glum Theresa May arrives for last night’s crucial vote[/caption]
The first today will see MPs asked if they want to leave the EU without any deal in 16 days time.
Mrs May sparked another furious Tory row by revealing she will urge the Commons to take No Deal off the table for March 29 at least.
But in another sign of her weakness, the PM was forced to offer all Conservative MPs a free vote on the huge decision.
Branding today’s new Commons showdown “an issue of grave importance for the future of our country”, the PM explained her free vote decision: “Just like the referendum, there are strongly held and equally legitimate views on both sides”.
While insisting she had “personally struggled” with her decision on how to vote, Mrs May added: “I am conscious of my duties as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the potential damage to the Union that leaving without a deal could do”.
PM URGED TO ‘RIP UP THE DEAL’
The Cabinet is also set for another major bust up over what to do now, when it meets at 8am today to be shown the Chancellor’s Spring Statement mini-Budget.
Several Cabinet ministers, including Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, headed-up a bid yesterday to persuade the PM to hold a third meaningful vote on her deal later this week.
Mr Grayling told a meeting of her Cabinet that a few more tweaks from Brussels could turn around the defeat.
But pro-Remain Cabinet ministers will instead urge her to rip up her deal and forge a consensus with Labour for a softer Brexit deal instead, currently lead by rebel Tory grandee Sir Oliver Letwin.
Anybody who votes to delay our departure is simply voting not to leave, and is clearly contrary to the manifesto promises of both of the major parties
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee
One Cabinet minister told The Sun: “The PM must now commit to the Letwin process, force a choice, face up to Parliament’s numbers, and ask for an extension”.
But other senior Tories were left deeply uneasy by her bid to take No Deal off the table for now.
The chair of Tory MPs’ 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady said: “Anybody who votes to delay our departure is simply voting not to leave, and is clearly contrary to the manifesto promises of both of the major parties.
“So it would be a clear breach of the manifesto on which MPs were nearly all elected.”
RESIGNATION NOT CONSIDERED
Other Tory MPs were left in despair by the defeat last night and their chasmic party split.
One minister told The Sun: “All roads lead to a General Election now”.
Senior Tory backbencher and Procedure Committee chair Charles Walker went even further to demand the PM now call a General Election.
Mr Walker told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “She has to get a new mandate for the sake of the country, because we cannot go on trying to govern like this.
“In no other time would it be acceptable for a parliament to behave like this.”
Several more Tory MPs also privately called for Mrs May to resign.
One senior Tory backbencher told The Sun: “She can’t survive this. This is far worse than losing a Budget, which is an automatic shooting offence for any Government”.
But No10 insisted Mrs May had not discussed her resignation.
‘MANAGED NO DEAL’ PROPOSAL
In a significant move late last night, a cross-party group of MPs launched a bid to take no deal off the table whatever happens.
Meanwhile Brexiteers teamed up with Tory Remainers loyal to Mrs May to table an amendment putting forward a plan for a ‘managed no deal’.
Under the last-ditch plan to salvage a no deal Brexit Britain would leave without a deal on May 22 but would pursue a set of “mutual standstill” agreements with the EU and each 27 member states to smooth our departure. The so-called ‘Malthouse Compromise Plan B’ proposal would act as a transition period until December 2021.
But the plan has already been rejected by EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier.
Issuing her final appeal in a speech to the Commons yesterday while losing her voice to a cold, the PM warned Tory rebels that “the choices would be bleak” if they defied her again.
Theresa May has been left with nowhere to turn after the humiliating Commons defeat has seen her Government lose control of Brexit[/caption]
MPs pack the ‘No’ lobby as they vote on Theresa May’s ‘updated’ deal[/caption]
She implored: “Today is the day. This is the moment and this is the time, to back the deal.
“Because only then can we get on with what we were sent here to do.”
A steady trickle of Brexiteer Tory MPs kept the PM’s fading hopes alive as they announced they would switch their vote to back her deal – including her biggest convert, Brexit Secretary David Davis.
Another senior Brexiteer, Sir Mike Mike Penning, said: “This is a political decision.
“You either want to leave the EU, or you don’t. I will hold my nose with both hands and back the Government”.
But Mrs May’s deal was doomed after the hardline Tory European Research Group and the DUP’s 10 MPs both declared they would vote against it.
COX DELIVERED THE HAMMER BLOW
The PM had earlier been dealt a hammer blow when Attorney General Geoffrey Cox revealed he had concluded her eleventh hour legal changes won in Strasbourg on Monday night did not allow the UK a guaranteed escape from the Irish backstop.
While three new provisions “reduce the risk” of the EU holding Britain in a permanent customs union on purpose, the “legal risk remains unchanged”, Mr Cox declared.
Humiliation and subordination of our democracy
Boris Johnson on the PM’s deal
That meant Britain could still be trapped in one forever if trade deal talks break down with neither side to blame.
All of Westminster had been waiting on tenterhooks on whether the Government’s top lawyer would be able to change his legal advice from the same gloomy verdict that sealed Mrs May’s initial defeat in January.
Swiflty afterwards, ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg tweeted cryptically: “Dies iræ, dies illa”, translating as “this is the day of wrath”.
During an impassioned Commons debate, Leave campaign chief Boris Johnson blasted the PM’s deal, branding it a “humiliation and subordination of our democracy”.
LEFT AT THE MERCY OF THE EU
The former Foreign Secretary also likened the PM and the Attorney General to “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden”, saying: “They have sewed an apron of fig leaves that does nothing to conceal the embarrassment and indignity of the UK”.
Veteran Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash also slammed the PM’s revamped deal, saying it would leave Britain “at the mercy” of the EU.
He added: “It undermines the referendum, it is in denial – in my opinion – of our manifesto commitments, it is in denial of the rights of this House to legislate in line with the wishes of our constituents in general elections.”
The DUP urged the PM to go back to Brussels to demand a better escape from the backstop during a final EU summit before Brexit next week.
A spokesman for the Ulster unionist party said: “We will support the right deal which respects the referendum result and Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom”.
In a tense meeting of the Brexiteer-ERG group before the vote last night, the majority of its members concluded that voting down the deal was a risk worth taking.
ERG chairman Jacob Rees Mogg said the “consensus view” was that the Commons would fail to stop a no deal Brexit – even if MPs vote in favour of ruling it out in today’s vote.
Mr Rees-Mogg insisted the meeting – which lasted 80 minutes last night to make a final decision to plot strategy – had “seriously considered” the argument that the PM’s deal was the closest they would ever get to the deal.
‘WHATEVER IT TAKES’ TO BLOCK NO DEAL
But he said the “balance of opinion” of the ERG was that the “risk of stopping Brexit is very low considering the moral authority of 17.4 million people who voted to leave”.
Mr Cox’s grim verdict send the Pound plummeting against the US dollar, losing more than 1% of its value.
The defeat now sets the scene for an ugly public civil war between Tory MPs over Brexit’s future.
Remainer former minister Nick Boles vowed to the hardliners that his moderate wing of the party will “do whatever it takes to frustrate you” in blocking their bid to enforce a clean, No Deal Brexit.
Mr Boles added: “With our friends on the opposition benches, there are many more of us than you”.
Another ex-Tory minister warned Mr Rees-Mogg and others that the vote was “an incredibly important moment for the Conservative Party”, adding: “Choosing ideological purity above pragmatism will have consequences. Be prepared to live with them.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “Enough is enough. This must be the last day of failed politics.
“A new approach is needed by all parties. Jobs and livelihoods depend on it. “It’s time for Parliament to stop this circus.”
EU leaders were also left despairing yesterday.
Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen: “It is difficult to give a helping hand to people who stand with both hands in their pockets”.
Geoffrey Cox consigned the PM’s deal to certain defeat with his legal advice on the EU’s concessions she had brought to the House[/caption]
Several Tory MPs have privately called for Mrs May to resign[/caption]
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