British Prime Minister Theresa May recently survived a major test by her own party which sprang a sudden floor vote of no confidence, over her handling of Brexit, the divorce deal for which faces tremendous opposition in the Commons. It is noteworthy that the vote was called for by the Conservatives, after weeks of similar threats by the Labour Party. Although May won 200 votes to 117, the 83-vote margin only underscores her precarious political position. The result gives her 12 months of breathing space from her own party but the fact remains: a third of her parliamentary party failed to back her.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who led calls for the confidence vote, said losing the support of a third of her MPs was a “terrible result for the prime minister” and called on her to resign.
This comes after May called off Tuesday’s crucial Parliamentary vote on her Brexit divorce deal so that she can go back to Brussels and renegotiate. May’s move irked several lawmakers in the Commons, with MPs from all sides accusing the government of denying them a say in the matter.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “Her government is in chaos.” He added that May “must now bring her dismal deal back to the House of Commons next week so Parliament can take back control.
Members of the British Parliament are expected to return to vote on it before January 21.
What’s next for Brexit?
Now that she won the vote to remain PM, the dialogue can finally shift to the contentious withdrawal agreement that has drawn ire from both sides. Saying she acknowledged why a “significant” number of MPs from her party voted against her, May said, “we now need to get on with the job of delivering Brexit.” She also announced a “renewed mission” to deliver the “Brexit that people voted for, bringing the country back together and building a country that truly works for everyone.”
May travelled to Brussels on Thursday for a meeting of European leaders where she hopes to resume negotiations even when the EU has clarified they won’t budge from the existing deal which was carved out after a year of talks. While May is confident of getting “reassurances” from the EU on the Northern Ireland border plan, European Council President Donald Tusk is of a different opinion. The controversial Northern Irish backstop, which the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and many Tories want removed, would remain in place, he said on Monday.
Why so many MPs are against the divorce deal
Ireland, which will remain a part of the EU after Brexit, agreed to a backstop or an insurance policy to avoid a return to controls on the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland in case of trade relations in the future. The “backstop” is aimed at preventing a “hard” border between Ireland and Northern Ireland which the Tories want to avoid.
Settling for the middle ground by going forward with the divorce while preserving the closest possible ties with EU, May’s compromise plan has upset Brexiteers, pro-Europeans, Scottish nationalists, and few of her own government officials. The growing scepticism and disgruntlement among many Brexit-supporters in Theresa May’s own party came from those who believe that she had given in to too many demands of the EU. Vowing that they would veto the deal on the floor of the cabinet and the parliament, some of them have raised their voice against May’s surrender to other European powers. Meanwhile, the Labour party has vehemently opposed any deal that does not grant the same economic privileges Britain enjoys by virtue of the membership.
What lies ahead
Britain currently faces grave political upheaval and economic turmoil, which is likely to worsen if the deadline for Brexit (March 29, 2019) isn’t met. Although May is committed to finalising Britain’s withdrawal from the world’s largest trading bloc within that time, there are critical issues that need to be smoothened first, especially getting her MPs on board with her deal. Without the yes vote, the UK only inches closer to a second referendum or a no-deal Brexit which could prove to be catastrophic.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.