MPs have voted to take control of the next steps of the Brexit process this evening – potentially paving the way for a ‘softer Brexit’.
An amendment put forward by Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin won by 329 votes to 302 – a majority of 27.
The controversial cross-party amendment allows MPs to decide on their favorite alternative to May’s deal by holding ‘indicative votes’ – where MPs can decide which option they prefer
This does not mean MPs are handed direct control of the UK’s exit from the EU, but could mean they are able to make more formal changes to the process.
It means MPs will take control of the Commons order paper from 2pm on Wednesday, with Sir Oliver suggesting voting could carry on over several days to establish if there was a proposal the House could support .
Just minutes before the vote, three pro-EU government ministers resigned in order to throw their support behind the deal.
Alistair Burt, Pro-EU business minister Richard Harrington, and Health Minister Steve Brine all quit.
Harrington accused the the Government of ‘playing roulette’ with the lives and livelihoods of the people of Britain in its handling of Brexit.
Other high profile Toriy rebels included former ministers Ken Clarke, Nicky Morgan, Justine Greening, Andrew Mitchell, Sam Gyimah, Damian Green, Alberto Costa and Dominic Grieve, plus Damian Collins, chairman of the Culture Committee.
May made it clear she would not feel bound by the result of any indicative votes – which could include a ‘softer’ Norway-style deal, or a second referendum.
‘No Government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is,’ she said.
‘So I cannot commit the Government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this House. But I do commit to engaging constructively with this process.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the result, hailing the fact the House had now ‘taken control’.
He said: ‘This Government has been an abject failure and this House must now find a solution…
‘This House must also consider whether any deal should be put to the people for a confirmatory vote.
‘Where this Government has failed, this House must, and I believe will, succeed.’
The vote is another crushing defeat for Theresa May, as a total of 30 of her own MPs rebelled against her to vote for the Letwin Amendment, despite Whips ordering them to vote against it.
A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union said they were ‘disappointed’ to see the vote pass.
They added: ‘This amendment instead upends the balance between our democratic institutions and sets a dangerous, unpredictable precedent for the future.’
The Government later lost the main motion by 327 votes to 300 – again a majority of 27
MPs also narrowly voted against and amendment that would have meant the government would need to ask MPs on whether to leave with a no-deal of request an extension to Article 50 if May had not secured a deal seven days before we leave the EU.
The Beckett amendment, put forward by Labour MP Dame Margaret Beckett, lost 311 votes to 314 – a majority of 3.
The result is another humiliation for Mrs May, who earlier warned MPs not to ‘overturn the balance of our democratic institutions’ which means the Government normally controls business of the House.
The European Council has set a deadline of Friday for her to secure parliamentary approval for her Withdrawal Agreement if the UK is to leave the EU with a deal on May 22.
If she cannot get it through the Commons, then the UK has until April 12 to propose a different approach or crash out of the EU without a deal.
In a statement to MPs, following a special meeting of Cabinet to discuss her plans, Mrs May said she regretted having to delay Brexit beyond the scheduled date of March 29 and thought “the right way forward” was to leave with a deal on May 22.
May shelved a third ‘meaningful vote’ on her Brexit deal earlier today, as she said there was still not ‘sufficient support’ for it.
She also opened the door for a second referendum on Brexit, after more than a million people took to the streets to demand a People’s Vote on Saturday.