By Sarina Rivlin-Sanders
If Theresa May’s team really believed there was a hope of only losing by 50 votes, as they went into the Brexit Agreement Vote on the 15th of January, their hopes have now firmly been dashed. In the largest defeat of government legislation since 1918, the motion was defeated by 432 votes to 202, a 230-vote margin. The previous record was held by MacDonald, with a defeat of only 166 votes. Just when Theresa May thought her problems were over, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a vote of no-confidence in the government. The matter will be debated today and by 8pm she may be out of a job, and her career as PM terminated.
That, however, is looking unlikely. Corbyn’s most likely Conservative allies in a Vote of No-Confidence would be remain supporting Tories, but the majority of them, including big names like Ken Clarke and Nicky Morgan voted in favour of the deal. Anna Soubry, another staunch remainer who voted against the deal has said she intends to back the government. It seems unlikely they will vote against the government before Theresa May has a chance to present her Plan B.
Even if Corbyn did get into Number 10 his options would be as limited as Mrs May’s are presently.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the European Research Group (ERG) seem set to back the Prime Minister, presumably to stop the possibility of a general election and a Labour government. It is likely we will see a rare united front amidst remain and Brexiteer Tories, who have been at each other’s throats since we first entered the European Economic Community.
Even if Corbyn did get into Number 10, his options on Brexit would likely be just as limited as Mrs May’s are at present. Only 71 Labour MPs have declared themselves in favour of a 2nd referendum, not enough to get such a motion through the Commons on an issue that has proved the ineffectiveness of the whips. In fact, it is doubtful that Labour would even call for another vote – between press pressure and Mr Corbyn’s own (less than enthusiastic) stance on the European Union – it seems that any government is likely to push on with Brexit.
The Durham University Labour Club (DULC) see it differently, however; Spencer Payne, the co-Chair said that ‘The DULC stance is that Theresa May is a mess, her deal is crap, and we need a general election to break this impasse. Anything else is irresponsible.’ In response to this, Adam Forshaw, the President of the Durham University Conservative Association (DUCA) replied, “We all knew the deal would fail last night and instead of participating in meaningful discussions Corbyn is adamant on pursuing a vote of confidence today that she [Mrs May] will win. It’s time for parliament to realise that there isn’t a majority for any single exit strategy and the time for compromise from all sides is now before we run out of time and actually deliver what the people voted for in 2016 – to leave the European Union.”
The European Commission implied that this is as good as the UK is going to get.
So, what is going to happen next? In the end, Brexit is a negotiation, it’s not just British MPs who need to be wrangled. After the vote failed last night the European Commission warned ominously that ‘time is almost up.’ They claimed that they had ‘invested enormous time and effort to negotiate the Withdrawal Agreement’, surely implying that this is as good as the UK is going to get.
The next steps, as Mrs May sees it, are for cross-party talks on how to resolve the impasse, so clearly she feels that going back to the EU Commission for further concessions would be a dead end. And yet the Article 50 deadline must hang over her head, and she knows that every day is one step closer to a no deal Brexit.
Brexit Bond Image: Ungry Young Man via Flickr