Meltdown as May aims for third vote on deal

High drama: MPs voted by 312 to 308 to reject a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances

Last night they rejected a no-deal Brexit. Today MPs will vote on whether to ask the EU for a delay. Despite losing her voice and most of her authority the Prime Minister is battling on.

“Meltdown” says the Tory Times, this morning. “Meltdown” says the Labour Mirror. “Meltdown” say the Liberal Independent.

At least they are all agreed on one thing.

Beyond that, as the Daily Mail puts it in three-inch capital letters “CHAOS REIGNS”.

In brief, the situation this morning is as follows.

1/ MPs could vote on Theresa May's withdrawal agreement again next week despite rejecting it twice already.

2/ Last night MPs voted to rule out no deal in all circumstances in another Commons humiliation for the PM.

3/ Sixteen Tory ministers and aides refused to back the Government on no deal -- ignoring a three-line whip.

4/ The vote is not binding -- meaning a cliff-edge exit remains the option if there is no extension or deal. One senior EU negotiator described it today as “the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way”.

5/ Parliament will vote on an Article 50 extension tonight but Brussels has voiced doubt about allowing one.

As the political sketch writer at The Independent, Tom Peck, puts it: “The details are extravagantly complex, and if you can’t face them all, the key bit to remember is that Theresa May planned to defeat herself, then decided not to defeat herself by defeating herself, then lost. To herself.”

“Oh, and as she did so, the prime minister of the United Kingdom that is, she remained entirely mute throughout. Didn't open the debate. Didn't close it. Didn't say a word, save for a brief point of order at the end, because at this time of acute national emergency, she is unable to speak.”

The Times leader column is especially damning. “Theresa May is now a prime minister in office but no longer in power. She leads a government that is quite clearly falling apart. The prime minister’s calamitous loss of authority over her colleagues was laid bare in a display of extraordinary political incompetence yesterday …”

Another leading commentator, Ian Birrell, tweeted: “Since becoming PM Theresa May has: Lost the Tory majority. Lost 35 ministers. Lost 39 House of Commons votes. Lost two Brexit deal votes. Lost all authority. Lost control of cabinet. Lost control of parliament. Lost control of her party. But she has not lost her job. Amazing.”

So what next?

Here are the realistic questions this morning. 1/ Will be there be an extension of Article 50 to June 30th if parliament can approve a deal by March 20th? 2/ Will Theresa May’s deal be brought back to parliament a third time and win? 3/ Will she resign and let another leader take over? 4/ Will she decide to change the current make-up of the House of Commons with a general election? 5/ Will she call a second referendum?

Each of the above is possible. What will happen? We just don’t know.

You Decide

  1. Should Theresa May resign?
  2. Is parliament doing its job?

Activities

  1. Research online the main duties of being a British MP and write a short job description.
  2. Imagine you have to make a speech about Brexit! You are allowed to make just three points that you feel strongly about and you only have one minute. Prepare your notes and rehearse your speech with a friend.

Some People Say...

“This apparently is not yet a dead parrot”

Former Canadian premier Bob Rae on Theresa May’s withdrawal deal

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
We do know there will be a vote today on delaying Brexit.
What do we not know?
We don’t know which amendments will also be voted on. Not yet. At least half a dozen were tabled within hours of the motion being published. One calls for a debate next week on rival processes leading to debates and votes at a later date. One paves the way for a second EU referendum, and a rival rules out holding one. Others want a longer extension without holding European parliament elections. Labour’s amendment calls for a debate on finding something that would command a majority. The most likely amendment to pass is led by Yvette Cooper and Sir Oliver Letwin and would lead to a series of indicative votes to see if any commands a majority.

Word Watch

Withdrawal agreement
This is “the deal” everyone is talking about -- the legally-binding agreement between Britain and the EU setting out the terms of the UK’s departure
No deal
This means leaving without any agreement
Three-line whip
Important votes in parliament are underlined three times and normally apply to major events only. A three-line whip is an instruction from your party to vote. Defying a three-line whip is very serious and can lead to being effectively expelled from your party.
Cliff-edge exit
This means “hard Brexit” or leaving the EU without an agreement
Article 50
This is the part of the EU treaty (the Lisbon treaty) that lays out what a country has to do if it wants to leave the union.

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