In Depth

Why tonight’s Brexit vote is so important

Commentators say Britain facing ‘prolonged period of chaos’

The Commons vote tonight on Theresa May’s Brexit deal is gearing up to be one of the most important in Parliament since the Second World War.

MPs will finally have the chance to support or reject the prime minister’s proposal for how the UK leaves the European Union, in a “meaningful vote” due to take place at around 8.30pm.

May has “found herself resorting to a mixture of pleading, threats and stark warnings” in the past 24 hours, says The Daily Telegraph - which adds that with scores of Tory MPs expected to rebel, she fears a “crushing defeat”.

Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at King’s College London, says the vote “could be the most crucial in our parliamentary history since the War”.

“It will help decide whether we leave the European Union on agreed terms, whether there is a no-deal Brexit or whether the whole Brexit process is put into reverse,” he writes in an article for the Telegraph.

Under normal circumstances, governments can be confident of securing a majority for negotiated treaties, but “these are not normal times”, says Bogdanor. May’s minority government has suffered a total of 27 defeats, four of which have been the heaviest in post-war parliamentary history, he notes.

In Downing Street there is “a gathering mood of impending disaster”, with some fearing that tonight May could lose by 200 votes or more, says the Financial Times.

Such a massive defeat for her plan, negotiated over two years with the 27 other member states, would “plunge Britain’s future relationship with Europe into doubt”, the newspaper adds.

Nobody knows what the PM will do next as she has not discussed a plan B with her cabinet, The Times reports. Many expect her to “limp on with the same failed plan”, but there is nothing to suggest the EU or Parliament would budge in the future, the paper continues. Neither is it clear whether she could muster a majority for any alternative.

Britain is heading for “uncharted waters”, The Times concludes. “The country should brace itself for a prolonged period of chaos.”

The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee is equally pessimistic. “Let no one think it will soon be over,” she says. “This is only the end of the beginning, in a Brexit civil war that will last a generation.”

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