Theresa May suffers 'humiliating' drubbing at hands of fellow MPs

Theresa May has offered cross-party talks with MPs to determine a way forward. Picture by House of Commons/PA Wire

THERESA May suffered a historic defeat last night as Westminster rejected the Brexit withdrawal agreement by an emphatic 432 votes to 202.

The outcome, while expected, was on scale much greater than predicted and threw the future of the Tory administration and the nature of Britain's withdrawal from the EU into doubt.

The humiliating rebuff was delivered by MPs just moments after the British prime minister made a last-ditch appeal for them to support the deal she sealed with Brussels in November after almost two years of negotiation.

The 230-vote margin of defeat was by far the worst suffered by any government in a meaningful division since at least the First World War and ordinarily would be enough to force a prime minister from office.

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But there was little doubt in Westminster that Mrs May will hang on and is likely to survive a motion of no-confidence tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

She now has until January 21 to set out a 'Plan B' – expected to involve going back to Brussels to seek further concessions, with the clock ticking on the scheduled date of Brexit in just 72 days' time on March 29.

"The house has spoken and this government will listen," Mrs May said immediately after her drubbing.

She offered cross-party talks with MPs to determine a way forward.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox appeared to indicate that the Tory leader will resist pressure to tear up her plan or to seek cross-party consensus on a new approach.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May's "catastrophic" defeat represented an "absolutely decisive" verdict on her Brexit negotiations and said he has tabled a vote of confidence.

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Moments before the crunch vote, the prime minister told MPs: "Parliament gave the people a choice, we set the clock ticking on our departure and tonight we will determine whether we move forward with a Withdrawal Agreement that honours the vote and sets us on course for a better future.

"The responsibility of each and every one of us at this moment is profound, for this is a historic decision that will set the future of our country for generations."

But the Labour leader called on MPs to vote down the agreement, saying: "This deal is bad for our economy, a bad deal for our democracy, and a bad deal for this country."

Heavily pregnant Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who postponed her planned Caesarean in order to vote, attended the Commons in a wheelchair.

Following the vote, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: "Labour's push for a meaningful vote all those months ago has been vindicated.

"Parliament's verdict on the prime minister's Brexit deal is clear and decisive - we can't go on like this."

Justice Secretary David Gauke, who backed the prime minister's deal, tweeted: "Clearly a very disappointing result on the meaningful vote.

"But the PM's response struck the right tone & set out a practical way forward."

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Vince Cable called for a new referendum .

He tweeted: "This defeat is beyond what anyone imagined. It is the beginning of the end of Brexit. Time for a PeoplesVote."

Hilary Benn, the Labour chairman of the Commons Exiting the European Union Committee, told the Press Association: "I think the defeat is extraordinary and humiliating for the prime minister.

"It's even larger than many of us imagined and it shows it's a deal with very little support."

He said the Tory leader's efforts to "reach out across the House of Commons" were two and a half years ago overdue.

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