UK: May’s Brexit deal rejected by parliament again
13 March 2019
UK Prime Minister Theresa May lost another vote Tuesday evening on her proposed European Union (EU) Withdrawal Agreement, with MPs voting against it by 391 votes to 242—a majority of 149.
With just 16 days to go before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, no deal has been agreed on trading relations after Brexit.
This was the second crushing defeat for May in what has been termed a “meaningful vote” by MPs. In January, her deal was thrown out by a majority of 230, with 432 MPs against in the biggest vote against a sitting prime minister in history.
Tuesday’s vote was the fourth worst defeat ever suffered by a sitting government. Voting against May this time were 75 “hard-Brexit” Tory MPs and the 10 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs upon which the Tories depend for a majority.
May promised MPs after January’s defeat she would seek to win concessions from the EU. A sizable section of the Tory party, up to a third of its MPs, organised in the European Research Group (ERG), are opposed to the section of May’s agreement that includes a “backstop” for Northern Ireland to ensure tariff-free trade with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. The “backstop” keeps the UK aligned to EU customs rules, with a minimum of regulatory differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
In the intervening weeks, May secured no significant concessions from the EU. On Monday, hours ahead of the vote, she announced a breakthrough in last minute talks in Strasbourg with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The pro-May, pro-soft Brexit (keeping access to the Single European Market) Daily Mail ran a front-page photo of EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier…