MPs Vote Down Brexit Deal In Massive Defeat For Prime Minister Theresa May

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Leavers hold up signs next to pro-European demonstrators protesting opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019.(Frank Augstein/AP)
Leavers hold up signs next to pro-European demonstrators protesting opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019.(Frank Augstein/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

The make-or-break vote on the Brexit deal with Britain’s future hanging in the balance. We’ll turn to London for reaction and what's next.


John Peet, political and Brexit editor for The Economist, and former Europe editor. Author of "Unhappy Union: How the euro crisis – and Europe – can be fixed." (@JohnGPeet)

David Herszenhorn, chief Brussels correspondent for Politico Europe. (@herszenhorn)

Amanda Sloat, senior fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. Fellow with the Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. (@A_Sloat)

From The Reading List

Brookings: "Divided kingdom: How Brexit is remaking the UK’s constitutional order" — "In June 2016, British voters decided in a referendum to leave the European Union, though clear majorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland preferred to remain. Amid the myriad complexities surrounding the terms of the EU-U.K. divorce, the decision has strained the U.K.’s constitutional arrangements. For example, will Scotland become independent? How would the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland affect the precarious peace there? And could Brexit affect the U.K.’s policymaking abilities and projection of unity on the international stage, given fights over where and how competences returned from the EU will be exercised in the U.K.? Although these debates can look like British navel gazing, they have practical consequences for the United States and Europe.

"This paper argues that Brexit will alter not one but two unions: the European Union and the United Kingdom. It begins with an overview of the U.K.’s constitutional arrangements, outlining how power has been devolved to the country’s nations and regions. It then discusses how Brexit has challenged these structures, with a focus on Northern Ireland and Scotland. Next, it considers how political dynamics in London, Dublin, Edinburgh, and Belfast are complicating efforts to resolve these tensions. Finally, it details how Brexit will affect Northern Ireland and Scotland in political and socio-economic terms, and force U.K.-wide debates about unresolved identity issues and the nature of devolved governance."

BBC: "PM’s Brexit deal rejected by 230 votes" — "Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal has been rejected by 230 votes - the largest defeat for a sitting government in history.

"MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject the deal, which sets out the terms of Britain's exit from the EU on 29 March.

"Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has now tabled a vote of no confidence in the government, which could trigger a general election.

"Mrs May said she would make time for a debate on the motion on Wednesday.

"Mr Corbyn said the confidence vote would allow the Commons to 'give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this government.' "

Politico: "Michel Barnier sees high risk of no-deal Brexit" — "The risk of a no-deal Brexit is up sharply and the EU must step up its emergency planning, the bloc's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Wednesday.

"Barnier issued his stark warning in the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg, the morning after the U.K. parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject the Withdrawal Agreement he and his team negotiated with Prime Minister Theresa May.

"'We're only 10 weeks away from the end of the month of March that is the moment chosen by the British government to become a third country,' Barnier said. 'We are fearing more than ever the risk of a no deal.

"'We must remain lucid and clear in our approach, which is why we are stepping up our efforts to be prepared for that possibility," Barnier continued, adding: "We will have to speed up our efforts working with all the stakeholders and partners who will be called on to take contingency measures to face possible consequences of that outcome.' "

The Economist: "Theresa May prepares for a drubbing" — "Theresa May will go to the House of Commons on January 15th expecting defeat. The prime minister’s Brexit deal, hammered out during more than a year and a half of talks in Brussels, has been attacked on all sides of the House. The Labour opposition says it could get a better deal. The Scottish Nationalists and Liberal Democrats are against Brexit of any type. The Democratic Unionists, who normally support Mrs May, cannot abide the deal’s 'backstop' arrangement for Northern Ireland. And scores of Mrs May’s own Conservative MPs have said they will vote against the government, most of them because they think the deal would leave Britain too close to the European Union.

"It is likely to add up to a drubbing. But where might it rank in the all-time league of parliamentary flops? Philip Cowley of Queen Mary University of London, an expert on MPs’ revolts, has put together a top-five list of the biggest rebellions in the post-war era (see chart). His list measures the number of votes against the government by its own MPs, rather than the size of the overall defeat (indeed, in four of his top five revolts, the government won with support from the opposition).

"Seventy-two Tory MPs have publicly opposed the Brexit deal, according to a count by ConservativeHome, a news site. That would leave Mrs May tied for fifth place with Margaret Thatcher, 72 of whose MPs revolted against her plan to abolish Sunday-trading laws in 1986. But a few dozen more Tories have made unhappy noises about the Brexit deal. The total may climb above 100, perhaps leaving Mrs May in second place behind Tony Blair, who faced a rebellion of 139 over his plan to take Britain to war with Iraq in 2003 (he won the vote anyway, with the backing of the Tories).

"The scale of the defeat matters to more than just politics nerds (although, we admit, we are rapt). If Mrs May loses by a narrow margin—fewer than 50 votes overall, say—she might just about be able plausibly to claim that, with a few tweaks, she could get the deal through on a second attempt. The EU is unlikely to agree to any big changes. But a few warm words in the formal political declaration that accompanies the legal text of the agreement might be enough to give wavering Tory rebels a ladder to climb down, should Britain approach its planned departure day on March 29th with no deal in sight."

Stefano Kotsonis produced this show for broadcast

This program aired on January 16, 2019.



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