Theresa May warns of no-deal damage following heavy Brexit defeat
- 10 DUP MPs voted against Theresa May's deal
- Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon voted in favour of the deal
Prime Minister Theresa May has warned of the potential damage leaving the EU without a Brexit deal could do, after MPs rejected her Withdrawal Agreement for the second time.
Mrs May said she "profoundly regrets" the decision of 391 MPs to vote against her withdrawal agreement, which she still believes is "the best and only deal available".
Now MPs will face another vote in the Commons on Wednesday on whether to support or reject a no-deal Brexit.
She also said she will allow a free vote among her party, which will allow Conservative MPs to vote according to their personal beliefs rather than party policy.
She said: "Brexit is an issue of grave importance for the future of our country, just like the referendum there are strongly held and legitimate views on both sides. For that reason I can confirm that this will be a free vote on this side of the house.
"I am passionate about delivering the result of the referendum, but I am equally passionately in my belief that the best way to do that is in an orderly fashion with a deal, and I still believe there is a majority in the house for that course of action.
"I am conscious also of my duties as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the potential damage to the union leaving without a deal could do, when one part of our country is without a devolved government."
She says MPs now face "an unenviable choice" of what to do next.
Struggling with a croaky voice, she added: "Let me be clear. Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face.
"The EU will want to know what use we mean to make of such an extension and this House will have to answer that question. Does it wish to revoke Article 50? Does it want to hold a second referendum? Or does it want to leave with a deal, but not this deal?
These are unenviable choices. Thanks to the decision that the House has made this evening, they are choices that must now be faced. Theresa May
In response, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Prime Minister of "running down the clock" and said his party with be putting forward its Brexit proposals.
"[The Government] must now except their proposal is clearly dead and does not have the support of this house," he said.
"The Prime Minister has run down the clock and the clock has been run down on her. Maybe its time we had a general election and people could choose who they want their government to be."
The EU has done everything it can to help get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line. The impasse can only be solved in the #UK. Our “no-deal” preparations are now more important than ever before.— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) March 12, 2019
Following the vote, Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said the result was no surprise and the UK needs to work towards a deal.
He said: “There were no meaningful changes, specifically to the backstop. In reality, the joint instrument and the joint statement are nothing but legal gymnastics to try to paper over the cracks. It made the division in the House of Commons a meaningful vote on meaningless changes.
"We want a deal. But, we want a good deal - a deal that will not compromise the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.
"It is in the best interests of the EU and UK to use their best efforts to work towards a workable deal, in order to avoid a no deal Brexit. Calm heads are needed now, and a short technical extension should be seriously considered."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "Sooner or later, the British Parliament is going to have to support a backstop for Northern Ireland or else support no Brexit at all; there is no happy medium between these two eventualities.
“The bottom line is that the backstop, aside from scrapping Brexit entirely, is our only insurance policy against a hard border.
“Until MPs accept this reality, Article 50 should be extended to avoid us crashing out of the EU without a deal."
Belfast Telegraph Digital