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Embarrassing loss for Theresa May in symbolic vote on Brexit plan | Politics News

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Theresa May has suffered an embarrassing defeat in the House of Commons as MPs voted against her approach to Brexit.

Theresa May brought a motion forward to reiterate support for the approach MPs agreed last month – noting negotiations between the UK and the EU over the Irish backstop were ongoing.

But she lost the vote 303-258 after failing to win the support of Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG), who feared her motion would take leaving the EU without a deal off the table.

Last month, MPs agreed to reopen negotiations on the backstop, but also voted in favour of a cross-party non-binding amendment rejecting a no-deal break with the EU.

Although tonight’s vote was not binding, it comes as Mrs May’s Attorney General Geoffrey Cox travels to Brussels to continue talks about the backstop.

She had hoped to send him on the back of a Commons victory, but he will arrive with the prime minister nursing another bruising defeat.

Mrs May did not appear in the chamber for her own vote, something Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised her for, urging her to return to the dispatch box and share her plan for what happens next.

Theresa May suffered a defeat in the Commons on Valentine's Day
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Theresa May suffered a defeat in the Commons on Valentine’s Day

The prime minister returned to her constituency home after the vote afterwards.

Mr Corbyn accused her of not having a coherent plan and waiting for something to “save the day and save her face”.

After the vote, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn yet again put partisan considerations ahead of the national interest – and yet again, by voting against the government’s motion, he is in effect voting to make no deal more likely.

“While we didn’t secure the support of the Commons this evening, the prime minister continues to believe, and the debate itself indicated, that far from objecting to securing changes to the backstop that will allow us to leave with a deal, there was a concern from some Conservative colleagues about taking no deal off the table at this stage.

Prime Minister Theresa May leaves the Houses of Parliament
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Prime Minister Theresa May leaves the Houses of Parliament

“The motion on 29 January remains the only one the House of Commons has passed expressing what it does want – and that is legally binding changes to address concerns about the backstop. The government will continue to pursue this with the EU to ensure we leave on time on 29 March.”

Mrs May’s motion came after two amendments were voted on, tabled by Mr Corbyn and by the SNP’s Ian Blackford.

Both amendments were rejected, with Mr Corbyn’s requirement for “another meaningful vote on 27 February or to declare there is no longer a deal on the table, and outline the steps it intends to take” defeated by 16 votes.

Jeremy Corbyn called on the PM to turn up to the dispatch box
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Jeremy Corbyn called on the PM to turn up to the dispatch box

Mr Blackford’s call for an extension to Article 50 of three months was also defeated, by 222 votes.

Remainer Tory MP Anna Soubry pulled her amendment at the last minute, which would have required the government to release the latest no-deal Brexit paperwork within seven days.

She has been given assurances by the government and will meet with effective deputy prime minister David Lidington to discuss which documents will be released.

The whips delivered the bruising blow for the PM
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The whips delivered the bruising blow for the PM

Negotiations with the EU will continue, but leaders have indicated a reluctance to give any further ground without guarantee it will gain the support of the House of Commons.

Ministers and Mrs May’s supporters sought to play down the significance of Thursday’s vote – which David Lammy dubbed a “Valentine’s Day massacre”.

James Cleverly, deputy chairman of the Conservatives, said: “What we learned from the vote this evening is not very much. The more significant vote was the vote we had last month.

“The prime minister, I know, will continue to negotiate with the EU to try and get some changes that can get through the House so we can leave on March 29 in good order.”

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