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Theresa May’s Brexit deal suffers crushing Commons defeat

The meaningful vote saw MPs reject the Prime Minister's agreement by a majority of 230.

The Prime Minister has suffered a massive defeat on her Brexit deal, with MPs voting down the withdrawal agreement by 432 to 202 – a majority of 230 against.

Theresa May was dealt the blow in a momentous evening of drama in Westminster on Tuesday, with the deal her government struck with the EU last year roundly rejected by the Commons.

It is the largest defeat of a sitting UK Government in the history of the House of Commons.

Many of her own backbenchers expressed their opposition to the deal in recent weeks, along with most of Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and even the DUP, which props up her minority government. In total, 118 Tory MPs voted against the deal.

Theresa May now has three sitting days before she has to return to Parliament to lay out her intentions.

Before the vote, she told MPs they were making a “historic decision” and said they had a responsibility to honour the result of the 2016 EU referendum.

But she also highlighted the risks of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal, which will be the UK’s default position if no agreement is reached with MPs before March 29.

The final vote on her deal came quicker than anticipated after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and Tory backbencher Sir Edward Leigh opted not to move their amendments.

It left only one division on a proposal from Conservative MP John Baron for the UK to take unilateral powers to end controversial “backstop” arrangements, which was rejected by 600 votes.

Speaking after the result, the Prime Minister confirmed that if Corbyn lodged a motion of confidence in her government later, it would allow House time for it on Wednesday.

She said: “The House has spoken and the Government will listen.”

The Labour leader then announced he had tabled a vote of no confidence in the Conservative government.

Mr Corbyn said the confidence vote would allow the Commons to “give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this Government”.

After the government’s defeat was announced, European Council president Donald Tusk tweeted: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Ms May had suffered a defeat of “epic proportions”.

“We have reached the point now where it would be unconscionable to kick the can any further down the road,” she said.

“After two and a half years of Westminster chaos, Scotland must not be ignored any longer. Our place in Europe must be protected.

“It has been crystal clear for months that the Prime Minister’s approach was heading for a crushing defeat. Instead of facing up to that fact, she wasted valuable time with her postponement of the meaningful vote in December. There is no more time to waste.

“What must happen now is clear. Firstly, and most urgently, the clock must be stopped on the Article 50 process. This is the only way to avoid any possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU on 29 March without a deal.

“Secondly, legislation must be brought forward to put this issue back to the electorate in another referendum. The government has had more than two and a half years to deliver a workable Brexit plan and it has completely failed to do so. The notion that it can do so now in a matter of weeks is farcical.”

Ms Sturgeon said the SNP supported Labour’s no confidence motion, and added that the only “credible option” remaining would be a second EU referendum.

“It is also the only option, within the UK, that would allow Scotland’s democratic wish to remain in Europe to be respected,” she added.

Following the vote, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said Brexit was becoming a “national humiliation”.

He added: “The Prime Minister now needs to pull her head out of the sand and start acting responsibly by taking the ludicrous threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table.

“The only way forward for the country is through a People’s Vote where people have the right to choose to stay in the EU.

“It is also time for Jeremy Corbyn to find his backbone, drop his plans for a Labour-led Brexit, and back our calls for a People’s Vote.”

Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader Liz Saville Roberts also caaled for a People’s Vote should the no confidence vote fail.

Regarding the Government’s defeat, she said: “This is a clear and decisive rejection of the Prime Minister’s deal. Plaid Cymru will never vote to make our country or constituents poorer and tonight we rejected a deal that would do both.

“It’s now time to move on to a real solution to this Brexit mess. Parliament cannot come to an agreement on the way forward, so it’s now for the people to decide on our European future. “

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