Brexit: MPs vote to take control of Brexit process for indicative votes

MPs have voted to take control of Commons business in an unprecedented move to try to find a majority for any Brexit option

Prime Minister, Theresa May has said there is no guarantee she will abide by their wish
Prime Minister, Theresa May has said there is no guarantee she will abide by their wish

The government was defeated by 329 votes to 302 on the cross-party amendment setting up a series of votes on Wednesday to find out what kind of Brexit has most support among MPs.

Prime Minister, Theresa May has said there is no guarantee she will abide by their wish.

Thirty Tory MPs voted against the government, including three ministers.

Richard Harrington, Alistair Burt and Steve Brine resigned to join the rebels, with Harrington accusing the government of "playing roulette with the lives and livelihoods" of Britons.

Harrington said in his resignation letter that as industry minister, he had been told the government approach was "resulting in cancelled investment decisions, business being placed abroad, and a sense of ridicule for British businesses".

May had tried to head off a defeat by offering MPs a series of votes on Brexit alternatives, organised by the government.

She said allowing MPs to take over the Commons agenda would set an "unwelcome precedent".

But supporters of Conservative backbencher Oliver Letwin's amendment said they did not trust the government to give MPs a say on the full range of Brexit options.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among them. He said the government "must take the process seriously".

He added, "The government has failed and this House must, and I believe will succeed."

He said MPs would want to find a consensus on the way forward, including a possible "confirmatory vote" on the PM's deal by the public - something May told MPs earlier she did not want because Remain would be on the ballot paper.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer tweeted, "Another humiliating defeat for a prime minister who has lost complete control of her party, her cabinet and of the Brexit process.

The SNP's Joanna Cherry said, "It isn't just Wednesday. Now that Parliament has control of the order paper... on Wednesday Parliament could award itself another day and so on and so forth.

In a series of indicative votes, MPs will be able to vote on a number of options, which will likely include a "softer Brexit", a customs union with the EU and another referendum - designed to test the will of Parliament to see what, if anything, commands a majority. But the precise format of the votes and how they will work was not set out in the amendment.

And the prime minister said she was "sceptical" about the process - as it was not guaranteed to produce a majority for any one course of action - and she would not commit the government to abiding by the result.

"The votes could lead to an outcome that is un-negotiable with the EU," she told MPs.

Parliament is expected to pass a law this week postponing the Brexit date from 29 March to at least 12 April.

A Department for Exiting the EU spokesman said that when considering Brexit options, MPs should take account of how long negotiating them would take and whether this would require a longer delay and the UK having to take part in European Parliamentary elections.

Those elections are taking place between 23 and 26 May. Both the British government and European Commission believe that if the UK has not exited the EU by the end of May, it will be legally required to hold elections.

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