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Brexit live: MPs vote to block a no-deal Brexit

The amendment had a majority of just four in support.

Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)
Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)

MPs have supported an amendment which rejects a no-deal Brexit at any time and under any circumstances by just four votes.

The amendment moved by Dame Caroline Spelman was supported by 312 MPs with 308 against.

They then voted against the Malthouse Compromise B amendment which sought to delay Brexit until May 22, by a majority of 210.

The vote to reject crashing out of the European Union was later confirmed by a more emphatic 321 votes to 278 when the Government’s motion was put forward as amended.

Here’s the latest:

MPs react

Conservative Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin called tonight’s vote a “sad day for democracy”.

Maria Eagle said Theresa May has “lost all authority” following the vote.

The options are ‘the same as they have always been’

Theresa May said “the options before us are the same as they always have been”, despite MPs voting to reject a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking after the result was read out, the Prime Minister said: “The House has today provided a clear majority against leaving without a a deal, however I will repeat what I said before.

“These are about the choices this House faces. The legal default in EU and UK law is that the UK will leave without a deal unless something else is agreed. The onus is now on every one of us in this House to find out what that is.

“The options before us are the same as they always have been.”

Watch: the vote for the Spelman amendment:

Corbyn: Parliament must now take control

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that Parliament must now take control of the Brexit process and his party will work across the House of Commons to seek a compromise solution.

Rejected, but still the default option

Despite MPs’ vote to reject a no-deal Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that it remains the default option if no deal was reached.

Theresa May said that MPs will vote tomorrow on an extension to Article 50, which could involve a short delay to implement a deal agreed in the next few days or a longer delay if no agreement is reached.

MPs support the Government motion rejecting a no-deal Brexit

MPs have supported the amended Government motion which rejects a no-deal Brexit at any time and under any circumstances by 321 votes to 238, majority 43.

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(PA Graphics)

No vote from May?

Prime Minister Theresa May was listed as having not voted on amendment F, according to the division list.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joined his colleagues in voting against the amendment.

MPs a flutter

Some MPs are claiming the Government is encouraging Conservative MPs to vote for a no-deal Brexit in the final vote of the evening.

Amendment ‘isn’t binding’

European Research Group chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said the amendment had no legal force.

He told Sky News: “We live under a system of law and a motion passed in Parliament does not override the law.”

Both UK and EU law had March 29 as the leaving date, regardless of the vote, he added.

“This vote is very interesting, and the Government may or may not pay attention to it, but it is not binding, it is not law,” he said.

Lords defy Government again

Later peers again defied the Government and backed a move to block the flagship legislation in the event of an “accidental” no-deal.

The House of Lords voted by 193 to 154, majority 39, to support a so-called commencement motion that would prevent the Trade Bill coming into force unless MPs approved leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement.

Unlike the Commons amendment tonight, the Lords motion is legally binding.

Brexit delay amendment rejected

MPs have rejected an amendment which includes seeking to delay Brexit until May 22 by 374 votes to 164, majority 210.

Baker: Government MPs baking Malthouse Compromise B

Steve Baker, former chairman of the Conservative eurosceptic European Research Group, has reported seeing members of the Government backing the Malthouse Compromise B as MPs continue to vote on amendments.

No-deal Brexit ruled out in MP vote

MPs have supported an amendment to reject a no-deal Brexit at any time and under any circumstances by 312 votes to 308, majority four.

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(PA Graphics)

Fox: No Brexit would be worst outcome

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said no Brexit was the worst possible outcome – even worse than a no-deal Brexit.

He said: “There is no worse outcome for this House, this country and our democracy than to have no Brexit.

“We have been given a clear instruction by the people of Britain and in the days ahead we in this House must decide who in our democracy are the masters and who are the servants.”

Labour backing Spelman amendment

Labour’s shadow Brexit minister Matthew Pennycook said his party was backing the Spelman amendment, saying it is “disappointing the way the Government has framed their motion”.

Winding up the debate for the Opposition, he said: “At worst it is contradictory, at best it is ambiguous.”

Mr Pennycook said it was obvious that no deal was the default option if an agreement was not voted through, so it did not need to be stated on the motion.

He said: “The only question before us this evening is does this House, in principle, definitively rule out a no-deal exit under any circumstances.

“No other question needs to be determined today, and that’s why our preference is to support amendment A.”

Prodigal Son ‘would be welcome to stay’

Mr Varadkar said that if the UK wanted to change its mind and stay in the EU, it would be welcomed back like the “Prodigal Son”.

Speaking to the US Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tom Donohue, he said: “It’s always important to remind ourselves that Brexit is not our policy, this is the decision that the UK has made, a decision that we deeply regret in Ireland and across Europe.

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Mr Varadkar with Mr Donohue (Brian Lawless/PA)

“If they were ever to change their mind, they would be like the Prodigal Son returning, and we would welcome them with open arms.

“But we have to respect the decision they have made which is to leave.

“Whatever happens we (Ireland) made our decision a long time ago, that we’re going to stay at the heart of the EU.”

Fox urges support

Urging support for the amendment, Liberal Democrat peers Lord Fox said it would create “the best possible chance for talented men and women in the UK to work and continue to work and offer their services within the EU 27”.

He added: “And of course it’s a win-win. On the other side of such an arrangement, we will continue to welcome people into this country who contribute positively to our economy and social fabric. Their skills make a positive difference.”

Lord Fox went on: “It signals what sort of country we want to live in.

“Opposing this amendment or indeed sitting on your hands panders to the false picture of the role of immigration in our society and it will impair the UK in so many ways not least in trade.”

‘People against the Parliament’

Tory Brexiteer Sir John Redwood threatened a public revolt against Parliament if MPs voted to block a no-deal Brexit.

Demanding the Government ditch Mrs May’s deal in favour of a no-deal exit before seeking a free trade deal with the EU, he said: “This Parliament must allow us to leave on March 29 otherwise it will be the people against the Parliament.”

Tory Remainer Dominic Grieve, former attorney general, said he found it “very troubling” to see Conservative colleagues support no deal just because they were dissatisfied with Mrs May’s deal.

“It is an extraordinary form of frenzy,” the Beaconsfield MP said.  “You smash up the china first and then when you’re not satisfied with the china you’ve smashed you decide to smash some more.

“That is what we’re facing and it’s my duty to do everything I possibly can to prevent it.”

‘We can pass motions ruling out no deal until we’re blue in the face’

Tory former cabinet minister Damian Green spoke to move amendment F, stating one of the purposes was to avoid a “cliff-edge no-deal Brexit for which it’s clear the country as a whole and in particular many of our major industries are not prepared”.

He said: “I think that no deal on March 29th would be a disaster for the economy of the country.”

He added: “Voting against no-deal does not mean that a deal will magically emerge. This House has to agree a deal and that deal needs to be acceptable to the EU. We can pass motions ruling out no deal until we’re blue in the face but it will make no difference unless there are options that this House will support.”

The principle aim of the amendment he said was to make sure that Brexit is “as smooth as possible” for citizens and businesses.

Brexit advocates ‘still chasing unicorns’

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said that people who advocated for Brexit has been chasing unicorns for a “very long time”.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC (Brian Lawless/PA)

Speaking to the press at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington he said: “As we head into the next few weeks it should be blatantly obvious that unicorns only exist in fairy tales.

“I would say to people who advocated Brexit – is this really what they wanted, protectionism, borders, tariffs, restrictions on trade.

“Is this really what Brexit was all about. And for those who voted against the Withdrawal Agreement on the basis that they feared that Northern Ireland would be treated differently as a result of the backstop, it must be evident to them now that it’s the UK Government’s intention to treat Northern Ireland differently.”

Spelman pulls her amendment – but Bercow says it’s still on table

Tory former minister Dame Caroline Spelman told MPs she will be withdrawing her amendment.

But Speaker John Bercow replied: “She can’t withdraw her amendment, her amendment hasn’t yet been moved – her amendment is frankly in the hands of the House of Commons.

“If (Dame Caroline) puts forward an amendment and chooses not to move it that’s for her judgment and people will make their own assessment of that, but it’s perfectly possible for other signatories to it who do stick with the wish to persist with it to do so.”

Dame Caroline said there is a majority against a no-deal Brexit in the Commons, adding: “I’m really pleased the Prime Minister has brought forward a motion to rule out leaving without a deal on March 29.”

She said Mrs May’s motion offered a greater opportunity than her amendment to obtain a “really large majority” against a no-deal Brexit, adding: “I really appreciate the offers of support from other parties but I will be withdrawing my amendment.”

Sterling higher ahead of vote

Sterling moved higher on Wednesday as currency traders looked towards tonight’s vote.

The pound was up over 1% versus the US dollar at 1.321 at the London market close, and up a similar amount against the euro at 1.169.

Markets also appear to be pricing in a potential extension to the Article 50 process, which is also driving the British currency higher.

Connor Campbell, financial analyst at SpreadEx, said: “It appears that sterling is now working on at least two assumptions.

“One, that there is no appetite for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit among the majority of MPs – including the Prime Minister herself – something that will be reflected in Wednesday’s vote.

“And, two, that this will lead to a pound-positive outcome from Thursday’s ballot on whether or not to request an extension to Article 50.”

Labour will support amendment A

Sir Keir said Labour would act tonight and oppose no deal with support of amendment A, adding: “We believe that is the cleanest and clearest way for the House to express its opposition to no-deal.”

He said Labour supported a close economic relationship with the EU and also supported a public vote.

He said: “It is extraordinary that the Government have acceded to a free vote on the matter of such importance today, not to have a position on whether this country should exit the EU without a deal. It is the latest evidence the Government is not governing and cannot act in the national interest.”

Tory Father of the House Ken Clarke said: “Effectively we’re back to square one, there is absolutely no consensus within the Government, within the Opposition party, within this Parliament and amongst the public exactly what leave means.”

The Government’s Withdrawal Agreement he said was “dead in the water”, adding any extension was dependent on 27 other Governments “all of whom are fed up to the back teeth with the state of British politics”.

Defeat for Government in Lords

Peers have inflicted a heavy defeat on the Government’s plans for post-Brexit trade deals in backing moves to prevent a hard Irish border in the future.

The House of Lords supported by 285 votes to 184, majority 101, a cross-party proposal aimed at ensuring the continuation of frictionless trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic and blocking the imposition of customs arrangements or other checks and controls after Brexit day.

Labour ‘still supporting public vote’

Labour’s Sir Keir was challenged on whether his party was still pursuing a second referendum, as he told MPs the Government’s Brexit deal has reached a “hopeless end”.

He said: “In those circumstances, both of the things we were ruling out in our manifesto – the red lines of the Prime Minister and no-deal – are the only things on the table, and that is why we support a public vote to protect against those outcomes.

“I am proud that we’re doing that at this stage of the exercise and it’s obvious why we need to do so.”

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Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer speaking in the Commons (House of Commons/PA)

Independent MP Anna Soubry, a former Tory minister, asked Sir Keir if Labour would support a motion or amendment for a “people’s vote”.

Sir Keir replied: “The Leader of the Opposition two weeks ago Monday made it clear that we would support an amendment to that end or put one forward for ourselves.

“Timing depends on discussions across the House and with others, but that’s the clear position that we put down.”

Francois suggests a third meaningful vote is on the cards

ERG member Mark Francois said the House of Commons has now said emphatically twice that it does not want Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement.

“When you read it, it means we don’t actually leave the EU. That’s always been the fundamental problem with it. It’s billed as a way out – it’s not.

The Conservative MP added: “MPs, no matter what people think of them, can read. They’ve read it, understand it and they ain’t voting for it.

“I suspect May will try to go back to Brussels to get more successions and we’ll have a third meaningful vote on the week commencing March 25th.

“My gut-guess is that in a very British way we’ll muddle through, we’ll drink a lot of tea, and leave the EU and be a free country again because that’s what 17.4 million people voted for.

“My message to Theresa May is to listen to her Party – all of it. Just about everyone voted for the Brady Amendment and the Malthouse one has been signed by Brexiteers and Remainers alike.”

‘Between very bad or even worse is not a meaningful choice’

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said he wanted to see the “mantra of my deal or no deal… dead and buried” in the vote tonight.

He said: “On this side of the House we have never accepted there should be a binary choice between the Prime Minister’s deal or no deal.

“Between very bad or even worse is not a meaningful choice and it would be a very sorry end to the negotiations.

“Yesterday the House overwhelmingly voted to reject the first of those options,  the Prime Minister’s deal. Today we have the chance to reject the second and we should do so with as big a majority as possible.

“The mantra of ‘my deal or no deal’ needs to be dead and buried tonight.”

Direct rule

Mr Gove later claimed direct rule in Northern Ireland could be a consequence of a no-deal Brexit on March 29.

Independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon (North Down) said MPs, including the DUP, must give “due weight to the serious warning” issued by the head of the Northern Ireland civil service David Sterling about the “grave consequences” if there is a no-deal Brexit.

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(PA Graphics)

Mr Gove said she was “absolutely 100% totally right”, adding legislation issued by the Westminster Government to empower Northern Ireland’s civil servants to take decisions is “sustainable at the moment” and it is hoped the executive can be restored.

Mr Gove went on: “But it is also clear that the current situation with no executive would be very, very difficult to sustain in the uniquely challenging context of a no-deal exit.

“Now we, in the circumstances that the House has voted for no-deal, would have to start formal engagement with the Irish government about further arrangements for providing strengthened decision-making in the event of that outcome, and that would include the very real possibility of imposing a form of direct rule.

“Now that is a grave step and experience shows us it’s very hard to return from that step, and it’d be especially difficult in the context of no-deal.”

Protesters raise banners on both sides of debate

As the debate continues inside the Commons, pro-Brexit protesters have taken to the streets outside to push their case.

But they were met with pro-EU supporters.

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Pro-Brexit demonstrators outside Westminster while the MPs debate inside (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
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The EU supporters were also out in force (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ken Clarke seeks assurance

Tory Father of the House Ken Clarke called on Mr Gove to confirm it was the Government’s position “that we are ruling out leaving on March 29th with absolutely no arrangements at all, we are ruling out the complete collapse of all our legal and trading arrangements with the Continent”.

Mr Gove replied: “His point is correct, the motion commits the Government not to leave on March 29th without a Withdrawal Agreement, I hope that is clear and unambiguous, but the motion also makes clear that the default position in law is that we do leave the EU unless we can secure assent to a withdrawal agreement.”

Mr Gove said it was “so disappointing” the Government did not secure a mandate last night.

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