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Theresa May defeated by MPs fighting to stop a no-deal Brexit

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LONDON — Theresa May’s ability to pursue a no-deal Brexit has been dealt a major blow after the House of Commons voted for an amendment designed to bring parts of the UK government to a halt if it attempts to crash out of the EU.

The cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill, brought forward by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, is designed to prevent the government from budgeting for a no-deal Brexit.

MPs voted to support the amendment in the clearest sign yet that there is a majority in the House of Commons to block a no-deal Brexit.

A number of first-time rebels, including former loyalists to the prime minister, voted against the government.

Spelling out the case for her amendment, Cooper said that MPs “have a responsibility to not just stand by,” and allow a no-deal Brexit, adding that she was “really worried that delays, drift and brinkmanship mean there is now a serious risk we will end up crashing out of the EU with no deal in just 80 days time.”

Cooper was accused by the government of attempting to “frustrate” preparations for Brexit, with the Exchequer Secretary Robert Jenrick MP telling MPs that the amendment was “unwise and irresponsible.”

Downing Street aides earlier attempted to downplay the impact of the amendment, which the prime minister’s spokesman described as being “an inconvenience rather than anything more significant.”

However, it is just one of a number of attempts by MPs to put a halt to those Conservative MPs pushing May towards a no-deal Brexit.

“We’ll be seeking to use any and every opportunity to show that Parliament will not allow a no deal Brexit. This is a single skirmish in a long campaign,” former Conservative minister Nick Boles told the Daily Mirror.

The vote came after senior members of May’s government used a meeting of the Cabinet to urge her to rule out a no-deal Brexit and after she met with some of the more than 200 MPs who signed a letter calling on the prime minister to rule out crashing out of the EU.

No majority for a no-deal Brexit

Theresa May and her Business Secretary Greg Clark
REUTERS/Andrew Yates

The Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd told a meeting of May’s Cabinet on Tuesday that history would take “a dim view” of the government if they allowed a no-deal Brexit to take place.

Business Secretary Greg Clark also became the first senior figure in May’s government to signal that he will resign if a no-deal Brexit is pursued.

Clark told MPs on Tuesday that leaving without a deal “should not be contemplated.”

“It is essential that we should be able to continue to trade,” Clark said.

“It’s why I’ve always been clear, representing very strongly the views of small business and large business, that no-deal should not be contemplated.”

Despite the growing opposition to a no-deal Brexit, the prime minister has repeatedly refused to rule it out, with Downing Street insisting today that the government would never seek to extend or revoke the two-year Article 50 process designed to take Britain out of the EU.

“We will not be extending Article 50,” her official spokesman told journalists on Tuesday morning.

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