Theresa May suffers another humiliating Commons defeat on Brexit
Theresa May suffered another humiliating Commons defeat last night after MPs again voted down her latest Brexit plans.
On another dramatic day at Westminster, MPs voted by 303 to 258 – a majority of 45 – against the motion endorsing the British government's negotiating strategy.
Ministers sought to dismiss the defeat as no more than a "hiccup", as No 10 said the prime minister would continue in talks with Brussels unchanged.
However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was clear her approach had failed and called on her to come forward with a "coherent plan" that could command broad support.
The defeat came after the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group (ERG) announced it had taken a "collective decision" to abstain.
But the voting figures showed that a number of Tory Remainers also declined to vote, as more than a fifth of the party in the Commons failed to back the government.
Five Tory MPs – Brexiteers Peter Bone, Sir Christopher Chope, Philip Hollobone, and Anne Marie Morris, and the pro-Remain Sarah Wollaston – voted with the opposition against the motion.
Furious ERG members said supporting the motion would have amounted to an endorsement of efforts to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
The wording of the motion called on MPs to reiterate their support for the approach set out in an earlier set of votes on January 29.
On that occasion, the Commons voted for a government-backed amendment calling on ministers to reopen negotiations with Brussels on the Irish border backstop.
However it also voted for a non-binding cross-party amendment rejecting a no-deal break with the EU.
The defeat shattered the fragile show of Conservative unity after last month's Commons votes.
It came after ministers warned that failure to support the motion could undermine the prime minister's efforts to secure concessions on the backstop in her talks with Brussels.
EU leaders have indicated that they are deeply reluctant to give any further ground unless they can be sure it will get a majority in parliament.
Following the vote, Mr Corbyn said the government needed a new strategy that could bring MPs together and avoid the the "catastrophe" of no-deal.
"The government cannot keep on ignoring parliament and ploughing on towards March 29 without a coherent plan," he said.
"She cannot keep on just running down the clock and hoping that something will turn up that will save her day and save her face."
Tory ministers turned angrily on the ERG accusing them of operating as "a party within a party".
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood said: "They caused this tonight and they are acting as a party within a party and that is frustrating."