In Brief

MPs seize control of Brexit process in Commons twist

Series of indicative votes set for tomorrow as MPs ‘humiliate’ PM

MPs have voted to seize control of the Brexit process and hold a series of votes on alternatives to the prime minister’s withdrawal deal.

The House of Commons voted by 329 to 302, a majority of 27, in favour of a cross-party amendment proposing to table “indicative votes” on a range of options. 

Three government ministers - Alistair Burt, Richard Harrington and Steve Brine - resigned as they voted against the government. In all, 29 Tory MPs rebelled to vote for the amendment.

The development leaves Theresa May “at the mercy of her mutinous cabinet once again”, Sky News says. The move came as “humiliation” for the prime minister, The Times says. The Daily Telegraph agrees, adding that the leaves her authority is “in shreds”. 

The indicative votes will be held tomorrow, but Theresa May has said there is no guarantee she will abide by the outcome of them. She complained that allowing MPs to take over the Commons agenda would set an “unwelcome precedent”.

However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who voted in favour of the amendment, said the government “must take the process seriously”. He added: “The government has failed and this House must, and I believe will, succeed.”

Responding to another dramatic evening in the Commons, the Brexit department said: “It is disappointing to see this amendment pass, as the Government made a clear commitment to provide a process to find a majority in parliament for a way forward this week.”

The Guardian predicts that the options on the table on Wednesday will include “leaving with May’s deal; leaving with membership of a customs union and/or single market; a no-deal departure; and a second referendum”. It is also believed that revoking Article 50 could be one of the choices. 

The amendment, tabled by former Tory minister Oliver Letwin, enjoyed approval in Brussels. Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, welcomed it, saying that it was an “opportunity to build cross-party co-operation leading to an enhanced political declaration and a closer future relationship”.

Last night’s vote came after May scrapped plans to stage a third attempt to pass her Brexit deal today. The prime minister decided to pull the vote following a meeting with Arlene Foster, the DUP leader. Leading Brexiteer figures have vowed that they will only consider supporting a deal that has the backing of the DUP.

Some analysts say the latest twist makes a general election more likely. Reports this morning state that the cabinet has war-gamed scenarios for a general election if MPs impose a Brexit outcome that the government could not support. 

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