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Theresa May hit by major Tory rebellion as MPs vote to delay Brexit until 30 June

Theresa May hit by major Tory rebellion as MPs vote to delay Brexit until 30 June
3 min read

Theresa May has been hit by another huge Tory rebellion as MPs overwhelmingly voted to delay Brexit until 30 June.

In yet another blow to her authority, Cabinet ministers Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox, Chris Grayling and Geoffrey Cox all abstained, despite being whipped to support it.

Other significant abstentions came from Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng and government whips Chris Pincher and Andrew Stephenson, as more than 80 Tory MPs failed to vote.

A total of 97 went further by voting against the extension, with 131 backing it.

The vote took place after MPs last night passed a bill giving Parliament the power to force the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Article 50 to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Mrs May today held talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron in Berlin and Paris ahead of an emergency European Council summit in Brussels on Wednesday at which she will formally request a delay.

In a letter ahead of the summit, European Council president Donald Tusk said he wanted the UK to be given a year-long extension, with the option of leaving before then if a deal can be ratified by the House of Commons.

That would mean the UK having to take part in next month's European Parliament elections, something the Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted would not happen.

Mr Tusk said: "Our experience so far, as well as the deep divisions within the House of Commons, give us little reason to believe that the ratification process can be completed by the end of June. In reality, granting such an extension would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates. "

He added: "This is why I believe we should also discuss an alternative, longer extension. One possibility would be a flexible extension, which would last only as long as necessary and no longer than one year."

The Brussels chief also said he hoped the longer extension "would allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy" - a clear hint that he hopes Brexit could be cancelled.

In a further blow to the Prime Minister, Downing Street confirmed this evening that there had been no breakthrough in efforts to find an agreement between the Government and Labour frontbenchers on a way forward on Brexit which could command the backing MPs.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: "We have had further productive and wide-ranging talks this afternoon, and the parties have agreed to meet again on Thursday once European Council has concluded."

But a Labour spokesperson said: "We have yet to see the clear shift in the government’s position that is needed to secure a compromise agreement."

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