British MPs vote to seize control of Commons agenda from government as ministers resign

UK Prime Minister Theresa May

Latest: MPs have approved the amended Government motion allowing Parliament to seize control of the Commons agenda to hold a series of indicative votes by 327 votes to 300, majority 27.

The MPs dramatically seized control of the Brexit agenda from Theresa May – potentially paving the way for a “softer” deal that keeps the UK closer to Brussels.

Minutes earlier, the Commons voted by 329 to 302 – a majority of 27 – for a cross-party amendment to enable MPs to stage a series of “indicative votes” on alternatives to the Prime Minister’s deal.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said: “Parliament takes control. An opportunity to build a cross-party cooperation leading to an enhanced political declaration & a closer future relationship! #Brexit”

The vote came as pro-EU ministers Richard Harrington and Alistair Burt announced they were quitting the Government.

Mr Harrington, a Business Minister, accused the Government of “playing roulette” with the lives and livelihoods of the people of Britain in its handling of Brexit.

The result is another humiliation for Mrs May, who earlier warned MPs not to “overturn the balance of our democratic institutions” which means the Government normally controls business of the House.

No Government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is

She made clear she would not feel bound by the result of any indicative votes – which could include a “softer” Norway-style deal, or a second referendum.

“No Government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is,” she said.

“So I cannot commit the Government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this House. But I do commit to engaging constructively with this process.”- Press Association

Update (10:35pm): MPs have narrowly rejected a backbench amendment to allow the Commons to have a vote if the UK is seven days away from leaving the EU without a deal by 314 votes to 311, majority three.

Update (10:15pm): MPs have approved a cross-party Brexit amendment which allows Parliament to seize control of the Commons agenda to hold a series of indicative votes by 329 votes to 302, majority 27.

A total of 30 Conservative MPs were listed as having voted in favour of Oliver Letwin’s amendment, according to the division list.

An analysis of the division list showed Tory former minister Ed Vaizey voted both for and against the amendment, which is regarded as a formal abstention.

Pro-EU business minister Richard Harrington resigned ahead of the key vote.

Mr Harrington said he resigned because he believed the Government’s approach to Brexit was “playing roulette with the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people in this country”.

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt and Health Minister Steve Brine have also resigned, UK government sources said.

Earlier (6:04pm): Three Brexit amendments selected for consideration in Commons

Commons Speaker John Bercow has selected three amendments for consideration as MPs debate the latest Brexit next steps motion.

The amendments selected are:

  • Amendment D, Labour’s proposal which calls on the Government to provide parliamentary time to debate a range of Brexit options, including Labour’s own plan, the Common Market 2.0 proposals, a customs union and a second referendum
  • Amendment A, the cross-party amendment put forward by Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve and Hilary Benn and signed by 109 MPs from all parties, to allow Parliament to seize control of the agenda in the House of Commons on Wednesday to hold a series of indicative votes to establish whether there is a majority for any Brexit outcome
  • Amendment F, tabled by Labour former foreign secretary Dame Margaret Beckett, to require Parliament to be given an opportunity in the week before a mooted no-deal Brexit to vote on whether the Government should go ahead and take the UK out of the EU or seek a further extension to negotiations

Earlier: May seeks to build bridges with MPs doing ‘difficult jobs’ over Brexit

Theresa May has struck a conciliatory tone with MPs as she sought to repair the damage done by her Downing Street statement on Brexit.

The British Prime Minister used a Commons appearance to acknowledge they were doing “difficult jobs” as they wrestled with Brexit.

It was a markedly different approach to last week’s Downing Street statement, in which she blamed MPs for failing to implement the result of the 2016 EU referendum and told frustrated voters: “I am on your side.”

Pro-EU Tory Sam Gyimah, who quit as a minister over her deal, described her remarks at Number 10 as “toxic” and a “low blow”.

The Prime Minister needs to win over MPs if she is to have any chance of overturning the 149-vote defeat suffered by her Brexit deal.

I expressed my frustration with our collective failure to take a decision, but I know that many members across this House are frustrated too. We all have difficult jobs to do

Speaking in the Commons, she stopped short of apologising for her remarks, but admitted they were made in “frustration”.

She said: “This is the first chance I have had to address the House since my remarks last Wednesday evening.

“I expressed my frustration with our collective failure to take a decision, but I know that many members across this House are frustrated too.

“We all have difficult jobs to do.

“People on all sides of the debate hold passionate views and I respect those differences.

“I would also like to thank all of those colleagues that have supported the deal so far, and those that have taken the time to meet with me to discuss their concerns.”

Earlier: May: There is 'not sufficient support' for third meaningful vote

Prime Minister Theresa May has told the House of Commons that there is “still not sufficient support” to bring her Withdrawal Agreement back for a third meaningful vote.

Mrs May told the Commons that the Government will oppose Sir Oliver Letwin’s amendment to pave the way for indicative votes on Brexit, but if it fails ministers will provide their own mechanism for them to take place.

Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit Coordinator for the European Parliament, reacted to the news on Twitter.

"Time is running out," he said. "A disastrous no-deal Brexit is more likely than ever. It is now up to the UK Parliament to deliver a cross-party majority for a positive future EU-UK relationship. The door of the [European Parliament] remains open to a closer relationship."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, responding to Theresa May’s latest update to the Commons, said: “The Government’s approach to Brexit has now become a national embarrassment.

“After two years of failure, broken promise after broken promise, the Prime Minister finally accepted the inevitable last week and voted to extend Article 50 and went to Brussels to negotiate.

“Last week’s summit represented another negotiating failure for the Prime Minister – her proposals were rejected and new terms were imposed on her.”

May and Corbyn have 'frank and comprehensive exchange of views' as Brexit talks continue

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn had a “frank and comprehensive exchange of views” in talks on Brexit, Labour said.

The meeting was also attended by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Chief Whip Julian Smith and their opposite numbers Sir Keir Starmer and Nick Brown.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May met for over an hour in Parliament and had a frank and comprehensive exchange of views.

Jeremy Corbyn made clear there was no basis for bringing back the meaningful vote on Theresa May’s deal for a third time

“The Labour leader did not accept the Prime Minister’s suggestion that the Withdrawal Agreement could be separated from the Political Declaration.”

Earlier: Theresa May fails to make Brexit breakthrough with DUP

A phone call between Theresa May and DUP leader Arlene Foster failed to provide the breakthrough the Prime Minister needs as she seeks to win support for her deal.

The 10 DUP MPs have opposed the Withdrawal Agreement in the two previous votes on it.

A DUP spokesman said the party’s “position remains unchanged”.

Mrs May’s official spokesman said that a Cabinet meeting earlier today discussed the outcome of last week’s EU summit and the content of the statement the PM was due to give to the Commons later on Monday. It is understood that the question of Mrs May’s future was not raised.

“The sense I took from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet this morning was of a determination to do whatever it takes to get a deal, so the UK can leave the EU as soon as possible,” the spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing.

“There is a real sense amongst the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of just wanting to get on with this and deliver for the British people.”

The PM’s spokesman added Mrs May had concerns about the constitutional implications of the amendment tabled by Sir Oliver Letwin which would give Parliament control of the agenda in the Commons.

“The Prime Minister has previously said that tying the Government’s hands in this way by seeking to commandeer the order paper would have far-reaching implications for the way in which the UK is governed and the balance of powers and responsibilities in our democratic institutions,” said Mrs May’s spokesman.

The spokesman was unable to give any date either for a possible third meaningful vote on Mrs May’s plan in the Commons or for the tabling of the secondary legislation required to remove the Brexit date of March 29 from the statute book.

Earlier: MP who tweeted it was 'all over' for Theresa May says Tories must unite

Theresa May’s former policy adviser George Freeman, who on Saturday tweeted that it was “all over” for the prime minister, has played down talk that there were plans for a coup against her.

“I don’t think there was ever a coup. There are many of us in the backbench party very frustrated that the Cabinet is completely split and briefing against each other," he said.

“If they can’t unite behind Theresa May, then they should have the guts to find somebody they can unite behind. Brexit is like the Death Star of politics. I always feared it would be like this. It’s destroying and soaking up all the Prime Minister’s room for manoeuvre and political goodwill. I was simply saying if that’s where we are, if the price we have to pay is to change to get a solution to this, then so be it.

I’ve never known this country so divided, so angry and in such a dangerous state. I think we’re close to civil unrest. This is not politics as normal.

“I think one of the extraordinary things about Brexit is it’s made spectators of all of us. I’m an elected representative of 76,000 people and I don’t know what’s going on.”

Meanwhile, cabinet ministers have begun leaving Number 10 after a meeting with the Prime Minister.

- Press Association

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