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Humiliation for May after huge Brexit deal defeat

Labour leader tables no confidence vote but prime minister looks likely to survive

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British Prime Minister Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons in London after losing a vote on her Brexit plan. Photo: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons in London after losing a vote on her Brexit plan. Photo: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire

PA

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons in London after losing a vote on her Brexit plan. Photo: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire

The Brexit deal agreed by the prime minister with the EU was defeated by a historic margin last night - but Mrs May failed to produce a Plan B.

EU President Jean Claude Juncker was blunt in his assessment of the situation last night, saying the risk of a hard Brexit had increased and "time is almost up". In Dublin, the Government promised to intensify preparation for "such an outcome".

"The Irish Government recognises, however, that a disorderly Brexit is a bad outcome for everyone, not least in Northern Ireland. It is not too late to avoid this outcome and we call on the UK to set out how it proposes to resolve this impasse as a matter of urgency," a statement said.

Addressing MPs after losing the House of Commons vote by 432 to 202, Mrs May warned MPs there was no way of dumping the backstop which will ensure an open Border on the island of Ireland.

She said any of the alternative deals being pushed would still require "the insurance policy": "No backstop simply means no deal now and for the foreseeable future."

Moments after the result was announced, Mrs May told the House of Commons: "It is clear the House does not support this deal, but tonight's vote tells us nothing about what it does support."

Labour Party leader Jeremey Corbyn immediately tabled a motion of no confidence, saying the result was "catastrophic" for the prime minister.

"After two years of failed negotiations, the House of Commons has delivered its verdict on her Brexit deal, and that verdict is absolutely decisive," Mr Corbyn said. "Her governing principle of delay and denial has reached the end of the line."

If half of MPs vote against the Government then it could result in a general election - but all indications are Mrs May will survive to fight another day. Labour hopes of ousting her were undermined when the DUP said they will back the prime minister despite their differences over the backstop.

DUP leader Arlene Foster urged Mrs May to return to EU leaders and renegotiate to secure a "better deal".

"The House of Commons has sent an unmistakable message to the Prime Minister and the European Union that this deal is rejected," Mrs Foster said.

"Mrs May will now be able to demonstrate to the Brussels negotiators that changes are required if any deal is to command the support of Parliament. We will work with the Government constructively to achieve a better deal."

She added that while some "may wish to use this defeat to boost their political ambitions, we will give the Government the space to set out a plan to secure a better deal".

However, the Northern politician cautioned that "reassurances, whether in the form of letters or warm words, will not be enough".

Former foreign secretary and hardline Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg both indicated they will also support the Government.

The EU said the Brexit deal remained the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it would intensify preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

"The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening's vote," he said.

Donald Tusk, the chairman of EU leaders, suggested Britain should now consider reversing Brexit. "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?" he tweeted.

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Irish Independent