That Theresa May’s deal with the EU was likely to be rejected by parliament today was widely expected. What was perhaps a surprise was the scale of the defeat 432-202. Only 196 of her own Conservative party voted for it, joined by the three Labour MPs and three independents. 118 members of her own party rejected it.
The Labour Party has immediately called for a vote of no confidence on the government which will be held tomorrow. May will likely survive the vote since the small Democratic Union Party whose 10 votes give her the slim majority she has, has said that they will support her on that vote, even though they voted against her plan today, and those Conservatives who defected today will come back home for that vote.
In the lead up to the vote today, the comments of various conservative MPs who supported Brexit revealed the state of confusion that exists. Some said they were voting in favor of May’s plan because a defeat may result in no Brexit at all, while others said they were voting against it because the plan did not meet the criteria for what they considered a real Brexit.
But what May can or will do now is unclear. Her statement after the vote suggested that she would consult with others as to what kind of plan might be acceptable to parliament and if one is found, go back to the EU to negotiate for it. You would have thought that that was what she should have done already.
Those opposed to leaving the EU thinks that this defeat increases the chances of remaining in the EU though as with all things Brexit, nothing is certain and there is little clarity. After all, if there is no deal by March 29, there will be a ‘hard Brexit’, i.e., one with no deal where the UK enters uncharted waters, where pretty much all the problems that have proven intractable so far will still be there, except that the UK will be alone.