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MPs defeat Theresa May’s Brexit plan as Corbyn tables vote of no confidence

Flags fly opposite the Houses of Parliament as anti-Brexit demonstrators protest in London. Photograph: AP Photo/Frank Augstein. - Credit: AP

MPs have voted to reject Theresa May’s Brexit plan by a majority of 230 – sparking the greatest defeat of a government since the 1920s.

In dramatic scenes in the House of Commons MPs it was followed up by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tabling a vote of no confidence.

Corbyn said the confidence vote would allow the Commons to ‘give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this government’.

He said: ‘The result of tonight’s vote is the greatest defeat for a government since the 1920s in this House. This is a catastrophic defeat for this government.

‘After two years of failed negotiations the House of Commons has delivered its verdict on her Brexit deal and that verdict is absolutely decisive.

‘I hear the words of the prime minister but the actions of the past two years speak equally clearly.’

He added: ‘The most important issue facing us is that the government has lost the confidence of this House and this country.

‘I therefore inform you I have now tabled a motion of no confidence in this government.’

People’s Vote campaigners seized on the defeat – 432 votes to 202 votes – by calling for a second referendum to break the stalemate in the House of Commons.

David Lammy from the campaign said: ‘The government’s Brexit plan has been defeated, and parliament has decisively reasserted itself over what has been a failed Brexit process. This vote will offer hope to young people, to those already struggling to pay the bills who are worried about looming economic disaster, and to the millions of people across the country who hope that this national crisis can now be averted.

‘With the clock ticking ever louder amid an ever-growing crisis, further negotiation is pointless. Instead, there is only one way forward – to hand the final decision back to the British public through a People’s Vote. This is not the time for further pussyfooting around or hesitation by Labour. Our supporters and members now need the opposition to act. If we cannot secure a General Election, Labour should honour the next stage of our conference policy and start actively campaigning – with people of all parties and of none – to give the public the final say.

‘Nor is there time or appetite for another round of fantasy Brexit in which all kinds of false promises are made only to flake apart in negotiations. Whether it is a Conservative government or a Labour government, there is no form of Brexit that can fulfil the promises made, that is better than the deal we’ve got inside Europe or that will prevent this crisis going on forever. Supporters of other forms of Brexit now need to be honest about them, before we are due to leave the EU, so that people know the consequences of each.

‘When they are examined in detail, I am confident that a People’s Vote – for all the difficulties that are involved – will emerge as the best option for the future of our country.’

MORE: Support our journalism by taking out a print subscription of The New European for just £13Best for Britain champion Layla Moran MP said: ‘We can fill the leadership vacuum left in the wake of this monumental defeat by putting this decision back in the hands of the British people.

‘I urge colleagues across the House to act in the national interest and back the people having the final say on Brexit, with the option to stay and build on our relationship with Europe. This is the only way we can heal the divisions caused by the last two and a half years of uncertainty.’

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said Brexit had become a ‘national humiliation’ and also called for Corbyn to back a People’s Vote.

He said: ‘Liberal Democrats have campaigned since the referendum to give people the final say on Brexit. Theresa May has failed to persuade her party, failed to persuade Parliament and failed in her attempts to scaremonger MPs to back her.

‘The prime minister now needs to pull her head out of the sand and start acting responsibly by taking the ludicrous threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table. The only way forward for the country is through a People’s Vote where people have the right to choose to stay in the EU.

‘It is also time for Jeremy Corbyn to find his backbone, drop his plans for a Labour-led Brexit, and back our calls for a People’s Vote.’

The prime minister told MPs that the government would ‘make a statement about the way forward and table an amendable motion’ by Monday January 21.

She also offered assurances to the Commons that the government was not seeking to ‘run down the clock’.

She said: ‘I’ve always believed that the best way forward is to leave in an orderly way with a good deal and have devoted much of the last two years negotiating such a deal.’

She added: ‘Every day that passes without this issue being resolved means more uncertainty, more bitterness and more rancour. The government has heard what the House has said tonight, but I ask members on all sides of the House to listen to the British people who want this issue settled and to work with the Government to do just that.’

Tonight’s vote represents the largest government defeat on the floor of the House of Commons in modern political history.

It easily beats the previous record of 166 votes, which was set almost 100 years ago on October 8 1924, and which saw the minority Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald defeated by 364 to 198.

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