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Theresa May suffers new Brexit defeat after Conservative MPs abandon their support for her plan B



LONDON — Theresa May has suffered a fresh Brexit defeat in the House of Commons after rebel Conservative MPs abandoned their support for her Brexit plans.

The prime minister had asked parliament to send a “clear message” to Brussels about their desire for “legally binding changes” to her Brexit deal.

However, MPs voted by 303 to 258 to reject the prime minister’s motion seeking endorsement for her plan to renegotiate the Northern Ireland backstop.

The vote was originally expected to be straightforward for the government as it sought a repeated endorsement for a motion previously passed by MPs two weeks ago.

However, pro-Brexit MPs abstained on the prime minister’s motion, as they believed it also endorsed a previous amendment that called on the government to rule-out a no-deal Brexit.

The Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay insisted in the Commons that a no-deal Brexit was still possible. However, Conservative rebels accused the government of “doublethink” after ministers refused to rewrite their motion.

“We’re now truly entering the world of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth,” Conservative MP Bill Cash told the Commons.

“In his book 1984, Orwell said doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and expecting both of them. This double motion is doublethink in action and I cannot possibly vote for it.”

Pro-Brexit MPs were split on whether to back the prime minister, with some members of the anti-EU European Research Group breaking to back May’s motion.

However, the result means the prime minister will return to Brussels later this month without the clear support from parliament for a renegotiated deal.

It will also add to growing pressure on May to shift towards backing a customs union with the EU in order to win support from Labour and other opposition parties.

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