Brexit delay: MPs vote for Article 50 extension
Result means Theresa May is expected to bring her deal to Commons for a third time
The House of Commons has voted to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit until at least the end of June, on another dramatic evening in Westminster.
MPs voted by 413 to 202 - a commanding majority of 211 - for Theresa May to seek a delay, but eight cabinet ministers were among the half of Conservative MPs who voted against it. May backed the motion but gave MPs a free vote.
Although the rebellion was, as The Times put it, an “indignity” for the PM, the Financial Times says the result “boosts May’s hand”. The Guardian agrees, arguing that the result meant May has “finally got the Brexiters where she wants them”.
The Prime Minister is now expected to bring her Brexit deal back to parliament on Tuesday for a third attempt at getting it through.
However, the rejection of the measure by the eight ministers demonstrated the unpredictable atmosphere. Those voting against included the leader of the house, Andrea Leadsom, and Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay.
Barclay concluded the debate for the government, saying: “It is time for this house to act in the national interest, it’s time to put forward an extension that is realistic” – but then entered the no lobby to reject the argument he had just put forward.
Labour was quick to pounce. The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said this was the “equivalent of the chancellor voting against his own budget” and showed a government that has “completely lost control”.
Not that Labour was without its own divisions. The party had whipped its MPs to abstain on an amendment calling for a second referendum – but 24 Labour MPs voted for it and 17 rebelled to vote against.
After three memorable nights in the Commons, attention now turns to next week, when another meaningful vote is expected to be held on Tuesday. Downing Street is hoping to win over the DUP and the European Research Group to get the twice-rejected Brexit deal through.
May’s former policy chief George Freeman MP has suggested that a promise of her resignation could persuade Eurosceptic MPs to back her deal. Arguing that the “chaos can’t continue”, he said the PM should step aside “to allow a new leader to reunite the country and oversee the next stage”.
If the third vote fails, May is likely to set out her request for a longer extension before the European Council summit on Thursday.