JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – United Kingdom (UK) lawmakers have voted to effectively rip control of the British Exit (Brexit) process away from Theresa May’s government. Members of Parliament (MPs) voted to pass an amendment proposed by a cross-party group of lawmakers in the hope of finding a Brexit solution.
An amendment tabled by former Tory minister Oliver Letwin passed, by 329 votes to 302 on Monday night, as MPs expressed their exasperation at the government’s failure to set out a fresh approach. It means MPs will get a series of votes on Wednesday to find out what kind of Brexit they will support.
The prime minister had earlier declined to say whether she would abide by the outcome of a process of “indicative votes”. The government issued a punchy statement after the vote, warning that the amendment “upends the balance between our democratic institutions and sets a dangerous, unpredictable precedent for the future”.
Three ministers resigned from government in order to back the Letwin amendment: the foreign affairs minister, Alistair Burt, the health minister, Steve Brine, and the business minister, Richard Harrington. A total of 29 Tory MPs rebelled to vote for the amendment.
Harrington, who has been outspoken in his warnings about the risk of a no-deal Brexit in recent weeks, accused the government of “playing roulette with the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people in this country” in his resignation letter.
The prime minister earlier announced that she did not yet have the support to justify holding a third meaningful vote on her deal, but insisted she would not hand parliament a “blank cheque” to decide what happened next.
After gathering Brexit backers over the weekend and consulting the Democratic Unionist party leader, Arlene Foster, and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on Monday, May concluded she could not yet win sufficient backing for her twice-defeated deal. The cross-party group – led by Letwin and Labour’s Hilary Benn – gave MPs a series of votes on the alternatives to May’s deal, such as a softer Brexit or revoking article 50.
European Union (EU) leaders have handed Britain a Brexit delay to 22 May, if May’s deal is passed this week. Without parliament’s backing, she must return to Brussels before 12 April and set out an alternative plan.
After a weekend of lurid reports about ministerial walkouts and ultimatums, the prime minister appeared undaunted as she addressed the House of Commons on Monday after telling her cabinet she still hoped her deal could win support.
May had earlier criticised the Letwin amendment, warning that the process of indicative votes could yield “contradictory outcomes, or no outcome at all” and set a precedent that would “overturn the balance of our democratic institutions”.
And despite failing to set out an alternative to her deal, the prime minister declined to say whether she would abide by the outcome. “No government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is. So I cannot commit the government to deliver the outcome of any votes held by this house. But I do commit to engaging constructively with this process,” she said.
Instead, May insisted she had not given up hope of bringing her deal back for a third vote, saying she would “continue to have discussions with colleagues across the house so that we can bring the vote forward this week, and guarantee Brexit”.
But Corbyn told the prime minister: “The government’s approach to Brexit has now become a national embarrassment. Every step of the way along this process the government has refused to reach out refused to listen and refused to find a consensus that can represent the views of the whole of the country, not just her own party.”
Controlling the parliamentary timetable is usually a key power of the sitting government, but MPs have been drawing up plans to step in after May repeatedly declined to change course, despite her deal being roundly rejected on two occasions.
May had earlier suggested to her deeply divided cabinet that she hoped to hold a third meaningful vote on Tuesday. In her statement to MPs, May came closer than in recent days to rule out a no-deal Brexit after last week’s European Council meeting agreed to an extension of the article 50 timetable.
She told MPs: “Unless this house agrees to it, no deal will not happen.” May had also opened the cabinet meeting by stressing the risks of a no-deal Brexit, amid fears among senior colleagues that she could embrace the idea, rather than accept a longer delay.
Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org