- Theresa May defeated on Brexit after the House of Commons rejects a motion seeking endorsement for her Brexit plans.
- MPs vote by 303 to 258 to reject the government’s motion after dozens of pro-Brexit MPs abstain.
- Brexiteer MPs abstained, arguing that the motion would have effectively ruled out a no-deal Brexit.
- Theresa May had asked MPs to send a "clear message" to the European Union.
- It is the eighth time the government has lost a House of Commons vote on Brexit.
LONDON — Theresa May has suffered another Brexit defeat in the House of Commons after rebel Conservative MPs abandoned their support for her Brexit plans in another day of Westminster drama.
The prime minister had asked MPs to send a "clear message" to the European Union about their desire for "legally binding changes" to her Brexit deal, with the United Kingdom’s exit just weeks away.
However, MPs on Thursday evening voted by 303 to 258 to reject the prime minister’s motion seeking endorsement for her plan to renegotiate the controversial backstop for Northern Ireland.
A majority of Conservative MPs in the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) abstained from the vote, which is what led May’s government to its eighth Brexit defeat in the House of Commons.
The prime minister’s opponents called on her to change course.
"Tonight’s vote shows there is no majority for the prime minister’s course of action on Brexit," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told MPs immediately following the vote.
"Yet again she has been defeated. The government cannot keep on ignoring parliament."
Labour MP and supporter of the anti-Brexit Best For Britain campaign, David Lammy, described the result a "Valentine’s Day massacre for the government and a damning indictment of the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan."
He added: "The Prime Minister has nowhere left to hide.
"Her threats to throw the country off a cliff edge if MPs do not vote for her deal will be exposed as deeply cynical by a leader more concerned with the future of her party than her country. She should now rule out no-deal and put her deal to a public vote with the option of remaining in the EU."
The vote wasn’t legally-binding. However, it had symoblic weight and puts even greater pressure on May to change her Brexit strategy.
The vote was originally expected to be straightforward victory for the government as it sought a repeated endorsement for a motion previously passed by MPs two weeks ago.
However, pro-Brexit MPs in the ERG abstained on the prime minister’s motion, as they believed it also endorsed a previous amendment that called on the government to rule-out a no-deal Brexit.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay had insisted in the Commons that a no-deal Brexit was still possible. However, Conservative rebels accused the government of "doublethink" after ministers refused to rewrite their motion.
"We’re now truly entering the world of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth," Conservative MP Bill Cash told the Commons.
"In his book 1984, Orwell said doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and expecting both of them. This double motion is doublethink in action and I cannot possibly vote for it."
Pro-Brexit MPs were split on whether to back the prime minister, with some members of the anti-EU European Research Group breaking to back May’s motion.
However, the result means the prime minister will return to Brussels later this month without the clear support from parliament for a renegotiated deal.
It will also add to growing pressure on May to shift towards backing a customs union with the EU in order to win support from Labour and other opposition parties.
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