No confidence vote today after May humiliation

Down, but not out: Despite her defeat, May said it was her “duty” to deliver Brexit.

Last night, Theresa May’s Brexit plan was destroyed in a historic defeat. Today, she could be gone for good. Meanwhile, the Brexit countdown continues. What happens next? Anything is possible.

Most people expected Theresa May to lose. But few foresaw the catastrophe that awaited her.

It was the biggest defeat for a sitting government in history. Not since 1924 has a prime minister lost a vote by a bigger margin.

On the line was May’s withdrawal agreement from the EU. The product of over two years of tortuous negotiations, May had staked everything on it. It was the best deal possible, she insisted. Less than a third of MPs agreed, and over 400 voted it down.

In normal circumstances, May would be out: gone, resigned, end of the road. But these are not normal times.

“The House has spoken, and the government will listen,” the prime minister said. She promised to hold more talks with MPs and EU officials to find a solution.

But can she change her deal enough to reverse such a huge defeat? European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is ready for “emergency” talks, but few expect anything substantial to result.

And before any more negotiations with the EU, May must make it through today.

After yesterday’s defeat, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion of no confidence which MPs will vote on tonight. If May loses, she must immediately resign. A general election will likely follow.

In truth, nobody expects this to happen. Tory rebels are certain to rally around the beleaguered prime minister to keep Corbyn out of Number 10.

But after that, what then?

Quite simply, deadlock. May has little hope of getting a deal passed. Corbyn cannot oust her. And the EU will not budge from the current agreement. Meanwhile, the countdown to Brexit ticks on. As it stands, Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal in 72 days.

If Parliament wants to avoid that, something must give. A delay to Article 50? (Getting likelier.) A second referendum? (Possibly.)

Some MPs want to wrestle control of the process from the government and hold a series of votes until a deal passes in the Commons (probably in the form of a soft Brexit).

Others simply feel the whole thing is doomed. “[It’s] the beginning of the end of Brexit,” said Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable.

Whatever happens, there is a long road ahead, with plenty of surprises in store.


How to break the impasse? That is the big question now. Does a deal exist that could satisfy all the factions in Parliament? Is a second referendum necessary? Or would that do even more damage — undermining democracy for generations to come?

For that matter, who would even win if a general election, or a second referendum, were to be called? Every side can shout about what they do not want, but where are practical solutions going to come from? So many questions remain, but for now, precious few answers.

You Decide

  1. Should Theresa May resign?
  2. Should there be a second referendum?


  1. If you were to vote in a second referendum, would you vote to leave or remain in the EU? Why? Discuss your thoughts in small groups and feed back to the class.
  2. Read Joseph Harker’s piece in The Guardian by following the link in Become An Expert. Write a paragraph in response to this question: How does the writer use language to persuade you to agree with his point of view?

Some People Say...

“All political careers end in failure.”

Enoch Powell

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
A majority of MPs must vote in favour of Corbyn’s no confidence motion to force Theresa May from office. However, MPs from the DUP have already said they will support the prime minister, and an overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs are expected to do so too. As it stands, Britain is still due to leave the European Union on March 29, with or without a deal.
What do we not know?
If Brexit will be delayed, and if so, for how long. We do not know if there will be a second referendum. Some Labour MPs want Corbyn to campaign for a second vote if today’s confidence vote fails, however, he is thought to be reluctant. If May survives, we do not know if she will be able to make any substantial changes to the withdrawal agreement.

Word Watch

Until now, the record was held by Ramsey MacDonald who lost a vote by 166 votes. May lost by a staggering 230.
If a majority of MPs vote against May, it starts a 14-day countdown. If during that time the current government cannot win a new vote of confidence, then an early general election would be called.
While there is a majority of MPs in the Commons who want to avoid a no-deal Brexit, there are some MPs who hold this as their preferred option.
Article 50
The legislation which establishes the date on which Britain must leave the European Union. EU officials have stated that this process can be delayed.
See The Day’s piece at the bottom of the page titled “Threat of a coup is ‘real and terrifying’.”
Soft Brexit
A form of Brexit that would see Britain retain close ties with the EU and keep following many of its rules.

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