May’s Brexit deal goes down in massive flames

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.


  1. leszekuk says

    This should be her Waterloo, but Elba wouldn’t have her, and the Tories are so afraid of Corbyn, they daren’t let her go. Her liability as prime minister after such a historically massive defeat of her sole policy is that she has lost all remaining credibility and authority home and abroad. Who could trust her word, or willingness and ability to fulfill any commitment or promise? She can barely represent her party let alone her country.

    Apparently, she regards herself as an indispensable Heroine who is the only one able to deliver the Will of the People, as her mantra goes. But it isn’t. It’s the will of 52% of the 70% who turned out to vote, and that on a very vague idea: leave! Despite what consequences? The Will was silent about those.

    Now we are expected to believe she can be trusted to build coalitions around Brexit that should have been started 2 years ago, and make concessions and compromises she has spent that time declaring impossible. British politics can teach the theatre of the absurd a few tricks.

  2. Curt Sampson says

    So it seems the MPs felt that May’s submarine was made of the wrong kind of cheese?

    Brexit is really just a huge distraction away from the U.K.’s real problems, and it’s hard to think of any way it could go that would not leave the U.K. worse off than it was before. Even if they come to their senses and cancel Brexit there will still be massive amounts of ill-will on every one of the many sides involved in this.

    I think that The Grauniad found the real problem:

    The Brexit vote was driven by stagnant wages, regional disparities and a soulless form of capital accumulation. These were not caused by the EU, nor will they be solved by leaving it. Only policies enacted by purposeful government can do that.

    May clearly has neither the desire nor the ability to make such policies, and it doesn’t look like Corbin would make any real change, either. It’s not quite the s**t-show that the U.S. is, but it’s not looking good.

  3. John Morales says

    Self-inflicted problem; why not just rescind the Article 50 declaration, since it was not a binding referendum and it was only narrowly passed by a slim majority of the (after the fact, obviously uninformed) voters? Pretty sure the EU would go along with that.

    Obs, she’d have to go down in flames in so doing, but it would reset things. Best thing for the country, IMO. But then, that would be putting the country ahead of oneself, and that’s not the sort of person who gets enough ahead to become PM.

    (Nice not being invested and to have the solution :))

  4. says

    I don’t see that there’s any time for a renegotiation of the deal of sufficient scope to satisfy a majority in Parliament, even were the EU to be willing. (Which they aren’t.)

    So it seems that our options now are going out with no deal, which will mean a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or remaining in the EU. A hard border will be really difficult to implement, and may jeopardise the Good Friday agreement.

    Cancelling Brexit would certainly be the best thing for the UK. I can’t see May doing it, unfortunately. Perhaps a majority of MPs will come to their senses and force her to revoke the article 50 notification.

  5. KG says

    the small Democratic Union Party

    Democratic Unionist. And in, my view, the “Democratic” should always be in scare quotes!

    May’s defeat is an all-time all-comers record for government defeats in the UK! A mark at which future stubbornly incompetent premiers will shoot in vain! Which makes it all the more bizarre that she’s going to win the confidence vote tonight, even though it’s clear that many of those supporting her have no confidence in her at all. And she shows no sign whatever of being willing to make any meaningful compromises. She intends to go through the motions of consulting “senior parliamentarians” -- apparently not to include the leader of the opposition -- but it has already been made clear that she will not budge from her “red lines”, such as no customs union with the EU, which might attract quite a lot of Labour support, but lose her some more Tory Brexiteers. The vote last night ought to have at least killed off her deal, but if May stays in office it will be up and sucking out the brains of any MPs it can get hold of before the week is out. The vote increased the chances both of a no-deal Brexit, which only far right numpties want, and of a second referendum, but the former is unfortunately the more likely of the two, as it’s the default: if no new Brexit-related legislation is passed, it will happen on 29th March.

  6. KG says

    Correction to #7: there will be some neo-Stalinist numpties who also want a no-deal Brexit, in order to pursue their policy of “socialism in one country”. Unfortunately, two of Corbyn’s closest advisers, Seamus Milne and Andrew Murray (both from highly privileged backgrounds, well-padded against the economic upheaval that would ensue) may well be among them.

  7. jrkrideau says

    It is difficult to see what May thinks she is doing, assuming she is still rational at this time and, quite seriously, I am not convinced that she is perfectly rational any more given what she has been going through. Clearly a large proportion of the Leave supporters in the House are not rational in any meaningful way and have not been in some time.

    May will not get anything new from the EU as far as I can tell from this side of the pond. What gets me is that the referendum is not binding. She, literally, is under no obligation to follow it. Why not just repudiate it and try for something sensible? Why has she decided it is binding?

    Still she may be “immortalized”. Guy Fawkes, David Cameron, Theresa May. A nice trio.

    I must say I was impressed by Bercow’s ruling. I did not even realize a Speaker had that power but it is good that he nailed her to a deadline.

    @ Marcus
    Now might be a good time for her to be having a discrete word with the New Zealand High Commissioner about political asylum.

  8. brucegee1962 says

    In a broader sense, Brexit has been making me wonder about the wisdom of direct democracy in general (the people voting to pass laws as opposed to representative democracy where we elect people to pass laws for us) and public referenda in particular. In US states that make heavy use of these (California first among them), the results seem to be mixed at best.

    The drawbacks to referenda seem to be:
    1. Certainly in the case of Brexit, these things seem to lay out broad statements of principles, and leave the working out of details to a legislature that may or may not even be in favor of what was passed. And if, as in this case, there turn out to be vast unforeseen obstacles, if this was a legislative decision they could have a do-over to correct their mistake. There doesn’t seem to be that option for a referendum.
    2. I’m a busy person. To really figure out the best course on any particular issue, it’s probably best to read deeply into it, listen to the arguments both sides, and hear from all the lobbyists for the various factions that will be influenced. I don’t have time for that — when I vote for a politician, I’m saying “I want to hire you to do that work for me.” I try to vote for people who will be smart enough to change their minds if they see a preponderance of evidence that they should.
    3. “The wisdom of the masses” is a crock. “The people” are capable of astonishing acts of idiocy. I hardly need to cite recent examples, do I?
    4. Representative democracies are susceptible to the corrupting influence of big bucks — but so are referenda. Advertising works because… seem point 3.

  9. jrkrideau says

    @ 10 brucegee1962
    I want to hire you to do that work for me.
    My though exactly. It should be a full time job and I do not have the time or resources to do it.

    I have always though that a referendum sounded like a remarkable stupid idea.
    How to make sure that 99% of the voters , necessarily, suffer from Dunning--Krueger Syndrome while making important decisions.

  10. KG says

    brucegee1962, jrkrideau,

    I might agree with you about referenda if leaving the decisions to professional politicians had a better record. So far, no country’s politicians have come within light years of dealing adequately with the existential crisis facing our civilization, if not our species. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what that is.

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