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Theresa May shelves Brexit vote to avoid humiliating Commons defeat

4 min read

Theresa May has postponed the crunch Commons vote on her Brexit deal in the face of overwhelming opposition from her own MPs.

The move - which was revealed in a conference call with Cabinet ministers - came just minutes after the Prime Minister’s spokesperson told reporters the vote was “going ahead" on Tuesday night as planned. 

Mrs May will confirm the move in a statement to MPs at 3.30pm, before Commons leader Andrea Leadsom makes a statement changing tomorrow's Commons business.

However, it remains unclear whether there will need to be a vote by MPs to approve the move. That would open up the possibility of the Prime Minister facing yet another defeat.

Mrs May has been under pressure from her own Cabinet to pull the vote to stave off a major defeat and allow her to return to Brussels to try and seek changes to the Brexit deal.

Asked if the vote was "definitely" happening on Tuesday, Mrs May's spokesperson had said at 11.07am: "Yes".

Pressed again on whether there were "any circumstances" in which the vote would not go ahead tomorrow night, the spokesperson said: "The vote’s going ahead as planned."

But that was moments before Mrs May began her call with her Cabinet colleagues at which the decision to postpone the vote was made.

A string of ministers had pushed back at reports that Mrs May would seek to delay the Commons showdown, with Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay saying this weekend: "The vote is on Tuesday. That is what we're focused on."

Environment Secretary Michael Gove also said this morning that the vote was "100%" going ahead tomorrow as planned.

Scores of Conservative MPs had publicly vowed to vote against the deal, while the DUP - who Mrs May relies on for her Commons majority - had also pledged to vote it down.

The pound plummeted to its lowest point against the dollar since June 2017 as news of the delay emerged.


Seizing on the delay, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "The Government has decided Theresa May's Brexit deal is so disastrous that it has taken the desperate step of delaying its own vote at the eleventh hour.

"We have know for a least two weeks that Theresa May's worst of all worlds deal was going to be rejected by Parliament because it is damaging for Britain. Instead, she ploughed ahead when she should have gone back to Brussels to renegotiate or called an election so the public could elect a new government that could do so.

"We don't have a functioning government. While Theresa may continues to botch Brexit, our public services are a breaking point and our communities suffer from dire under-investment."

Nigel Dodds, the Westminster leader of the DUP, whom the PM relies on in a confidence and supply agreement to prop up her Government, told the BBC: "The Prime Minister should have realised from the moment she came back with this deal that it wasn’t going to fly."

"She persisted and persisted, she’s been running around telling people as late as this morning that the vote will go ahead and this is the only the EU wouldn’t renegotiate.

"She was commending it and now she’s pulled it and the only reason she can pull it is to try and get something better.

"Quite frankly it’s a bit of a humiliation for her, but it’s one she’s brought about herself."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "If rumours of a delay are correct, it will be pathetic cowardice by a PM and government that have run out of road and now need to get out of the way."

Arch-Brexiteer and leader of the Tory European Research Group, Jacob Rees-Mogg, added: "The whole handling of this is incompetent.

“The negotiations have been incompetent, the parliamentary handling incompetent, the press briefings incompetent. I said a fortnight ago I thought she should go and this proves the point.”

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