UK lawmakers vote to support plan to stop no-deal Brexit — as it happened | News | DW | 03.09.2019
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UK lawmakers vote to support plan to stop no-deal Brexit — as it happened

The move paves the way for MPs to pass legislation that would force Boris Johnson to seek a Brexit delay. The prime minister has said he will call for a general election if lawmakers vote to block no-deal Brexit.

Watch video 01:44

Johnson defeated in Brexit vote

Key developments of the day:

  • British lawmakers voted 328 to 301 in favor of a cross-party effort to prevent a no-deal Brexit on Tuesday evening. The development paves the way for lawmakers to potentially pass legislation on Wednesday that would force Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask Brussels for an extension to the Brexit deadline — something he said he would not do under any circumstances.
  • After the vote, Johnson said he will table a motion to call for a snap election. In order to call a new general election, the motion would need the support of two-thirds of lawmakers.
  • The prime minister's government lost its parliamentary majority, after Conservative MP Phillip Lee crossed the floor and defected to the Liberal Democrats as the prime minister spoke in the House of Commons.

All times in UTC/GMT

2205 All 21 of the rebel Conservative lawmakers who voted against Johnson's government on Tuesday will be kicked out of the party, a Downing Street spokesperson said. The MPs include Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, as well as former finance ministers Philip Hammond and Kenneth Clarke.

Soames told the BBC that he has only voted against a Tory government three times during his 37 years as a Conservative MP and that he would not be running again as a candidate in the next election.

"But that's the fortunes of war. I knew what I was doing. But I just believe that they're not playing straight with us. To say you want a deal is quite different from saying you want a deal that isn't achievable. And what he wants isn't achievable and he knows it," he said.

2124 Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, fired back at Johnson's attempt to call an early election — urging MPs to pass legislation tomorrow that would delay a no-deal Brexit. "There is no consent in this House to leave the European Union without a deal. There is no majority for a no deal in the country," Corbyn said.

2122 Immediately after the vote, Boris Johnson said that he is tabling a motion to call an early election. "I don't want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to compel another pointless delay to Brexit then that would be the only way to resolve this," he said.

2110  Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffers a major defeat as lawmakers vote to seize control of the Brexit agenda by 328 to 301. An estimated 21 members of his own Conservatives voted against the government and possibly face being thrown out of the party over the vote.

2050 Lawmakers start voting on whether to take control of the parliamentary process, which would then allow them to vote on legislation tomorrow to delay a no-deal Brexit. All eyes will be on members of Johnson's Conservatives who have said they will vote against the government. A result is expected in the next 15 minutes.

1950 As Conservative MP Dominic Grieve speaks in favor of the bill, we see the leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg reclining on the front bench on hour five of a long day of discussion and debate. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg reclines on a bench during a debate in Parliament

Jacob Rees-Mogg was swiftly criticized for stretching out and closing his eyes during the debate

1940 Independent MP Nick Boles who resigned from the Conservative party earlier this year speaks of how a no-deal Brexit would impact his constituents. "[A no-deal Brexit] would be the single most protectionist step taken by any democratic country since the Great Depression, raising tariffs and trade barriers between us and our largest market," he says.

Then he addresses the Conservative Rebels: "To those brave souls on the Conservative benches who face expulsion from the party for voting for the motion today, I say this: your country needs you. Do what you know to be right. Join me on these benches and together, let us build a new force in British politics and a true home in parliament for those who believe in one nation."

1918 The longest-serving MP in the UK, Ken Clarke, tells the chamber he thinks a maximum of 20 MPs actually support no deal. He goes on to outline what he believes to be the grander strategy of those close to Johnson. 

"I'd be amazed if the majority doesn't emerge, yet again, strongly against just leaving with no deal — not really because anybody wants it, about 20 members of the House of Commons, I think, really think it's a good idea to leave with no deal. It's the right of my party otherwise having given up and deciding: 'get it over with, leave with no deal, it's all the fault of the Germans, the French and particularly the [European] Commissioners, all the fault of parliament; have a quick election, wave a Union Jack, and then we'll sort out the bumps which will come when we've left.' The House must stop that and use the opportunity." 

1908 More from Blackford, on excoriating form as usual: "I have to say it grieves me to see what has taken place. Because in effect what has happened with the election of the prime minister, is the Vote Leave campaign now runs the government. And the harsh reality is that Conservatives sitting on the back benches, that are prepared to put our national interest before party interest, are going to be forced out of their party. What has happened, Mr. Speaker, is that the Tory party has been taken over by a cult. And that does nothing, absolutely nothing, for our country." 

And then a recognition of the cross-party support of the bill: "We're doing this on a cross-party basis to stop the prime minister from running down the clock and obstructing the democratic rights of the MPs to debate, to vote, and to represent the will of the people who sent us to this place," he says. 

"The shameful acts of the prime minister are because he knows there is no majority here for a no-deal Brexit. Because he knows there is no support from the public for a no-deal Brexit. Because he knows what we all know: that a no-deal Brexit is catastrophic for the lives of citizens across these islands." 

1904 Ian Blackford praises the various — and often very divided — opposition forces in Parliament for eventually agreeing to work together on the bill being debated.

"I want to applaud members of parliament right across this House, that have worked together over the course of the last few weeks — collectively — because we understand the risk that there is to our economy, we understand the risk that there is to our communities. And thank goodness that members of parliament have shown that desire to work across the House." 

However, it's safe to say the opposition's unity is anything but total, even on this issue.

1901 Now the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) within the UK Parliament, Ian Blackford, has the floor. Scotland voted predominantly to remain in 2016, and the SNP campaigned that way. Forever advocates of a Scottish independence referendum, the SNP sees a Brexit against their wishes as the best reason yet to repeat a 2014 vote, which ended with 55% voting to remain in the UK and 45% voting to split.

1843 Rees-Mogg argues that tonight's bill is trying to achieve the wrong thing. Rather than seeking to wrestle control of the Parliament and then force Johnson's hand, Rees-Mogg says, the opposition should table a motion of no-confidence instead. 

"The government draws power from Parliament, but the government may at any time be removed by the tried and tested motion of a confidence debate. And the fact that Parliament has not been willing to go down this route, the fact that the opposition are afraid of this route, the fact that the opposition run away from the confidence vote route, is because they do not dare have the leader of the opposition as head of the government. They are frightened." 

1828 Conservative MP Dominic Grieve says so much in the House depends on trust and asks Jacob Rees-Mogg how the House can trust the government if there are so many examples of the government making inaccurate statements, citing the parliamentary prorogation and the leaked documents on Operation Yellowhammer.

1823 Ken Clarke, a Conservative MP since 1970 without interruption and the "Father of the House" as its longest-serving member, challenges Rees-Mogg on the details of WTO rules. "You can't simply accept calmly the argument that WTO rules would do no damage to our economy," Clarke says.  Clarke is arguably the most significant Conservative whose place in the party currently seems in serious doubt. For his part, he has often said that he would never voluntarily leave a party he joined as a student, on the basis of its support for joining the precursor to the EU. 

1820 Rees-Mogg is asked about Northern Ireland, and the chances of no-deal helping the cause for a referendum on Irish unity via the implementation of a hard border in Ireland.

"There would have to be a political desire to impose a hard border, and neither the Republic of Ireland nor the United Kingdom has such a desire," Rees-Mogg says. That neither side wants a hard border is uncontroversial, whether or not they'd be legally obliged to establish one is considerably more complicated.

1817 Cue Jacob Rees-Mogg, once the leading backbench Brexiter in the Conservatives, now the Leader of the House of Commons. 

"We find ourselves debating a proposition that seeks to confound the referendum once again," he says. "Mr. Speaker, I wish to be clear: what is proposed is constitutionally irregular." 

1805 "I'm urging all MPs from all sides to stand up for what is right, to stand up for what you believe in," says Jeremy Corbyn as he urges lawmakers to support the cross-party move to block a no-deal Brexit by "a government determined to subvert the democratic process, to force through a policy the majority of this House does not support." 

1804 "There is no more time. They have taken it away. This is our last opportunity," Corbyn says. His quote's rather reminiscent of comments from European Council President Donald Tusk, way back in April, when the extension to October 31 was agreed: "Please, do not waste this time," he implored British politicians. The intervening period has been taken up by Theresa May's gradual resignation, a roughly six-week Conservative leadership contest, and then the summer recess.

1800 Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn chimes in in favor of the motion. He says that while outcomes of votes in the House of Commons are often uncertain, it's rare to hold such a vote unsure if the decision would in fact be upheld.

"Today, I'm urging MPs from all sides to stand up for what is right, to stand up for what you believe in and support this cross-party vote." 

1753 Conservative Oliver Letwin sets out his opening arguments to kick off the main debate.

"The government's intention or willingness to lead our country into a no-deal exit is a threat to our country," Letwin says. "The prime minister is much in the position of someone standing on one side of a canyon, shouting to people on the other side of the canyon that if they do not do as he wishes, he will throw himself into the abyss. That is not a credible negotiating strategy. And it is also not a responsible negotiating strategy, given that the rest of are to be dragged over the edge with the prime minister."

British Conservative MP Phillip Lee speaks to the media outside the Houses of Parliament after crossing the floor, in Westminster, London.

British Conservative MP Phillip Lee speaks to the media outside the Houses of Parliament after crossing the floor, in Westminster, London.

1745 A debate on the main motion is approved and will take place after a short "clean air" break.

1657 Could this herald a brief and rare reprieve from Brexit in the session? The next Cabinet minister to brief the House after the summer is Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. He's best known as the defense minister sacked by Theresa May for allegedly leaking sensitive information on China, Huawei and 5G. Brexit arguably does not impact education as directly as it does many other issues, although universities might beg to differ on that score.

1653 Gove facing repeated questions at the end of his time in the hotseat on food supplies, seeking to assure no fresh food shortages in the days or weeks after a disorderly Brexit. One of the questioners was independent, Jewish, former Labour MP Luciana Berger, who left the opposition party in protest at its failure to tackle anti-Semitism in the party.

1645 There's a recurring theme now, as we roll through questions on sector after sector likely to be hit by a no-deal, including agriculture, the chemicals sector, medical supplies and other issues. Michael Gove struggles to find new and fresh ways of saying words to the effect of: yes, that is indeed something we're monitoring, and we'll do all we can.

1640 Hilary Benn, the opposition MP responsible for matters Brexit, asks about the freight and haulage business, amid the prospect of border checks to Europe at key ports like Calais in France. Gove replies: "I had the opportunity on Friday to visit Calais, to talk to ministers and also to the president of the regional assembly there. Both of them said that they proposed to take a pragmatic approach in order to ensure the maximum flow."

1637 Labour MP Ben Bradshaw returns to a common theme in the debate, asking "why should anyone believe" that the British government is engaging in serious talks with Brussels seeking a revised exit deal. Michael Gove replies with a quip about the number of air miles being racked up by Cabinet members and citing bilateral meetings, including with French President Emmanuel Macron.

1623 The island of Ireland is one of the core questions when it comes to Brexit. Currently, Prime Minister Johnson cites the so-called "backstop" — a plan aiming to prevent the need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU-member the Republic of Ireland — as his main objection to the Withdrawal Agreement agreed between the EU and Theresa May's government. US Vice President Mike Pence was in Dublin earlier talking to Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar about the process. Johnson earlier told the Commons that "actually it is the backstop and the Withdrawal Agreement itself that undermines the balance of the Good Friday [peace] Agreement," rather than the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. The video below explores the possibility of Brexit ultimately leading to Northern Ireland leaving the UK to join the Republic of Ireland: 

Watch video 03:55

Could a no-deal Brexit lead to a unified Ireland?

1621 Michael Gove speaks on the preparations being done in anticipation of Brexit by the UK government on trade and on treatment for UK nationals in the EU and EU nationals in the UK. He urges MPs to give the prime minister the time and space to "pursue a good deal."

"There are undoubted risks and real challenges in leaving without a deal on October 31, but there are also opportunities and new possibilities for our country outside of the EU," Gove says. "It's my job to mitigate those risks, overcome those challenges and enable this country to exploit those opportunities and extend to every citizen those new opportunities." 

1618 The reason this session is so hurried and so important is Johnson's plan to prorogue, or shutter, Britain's Parliament in the run-up to the current Brexit deadline. MPs' time to legislate against a "no-deal" is extremely limited. DW's Barbara Wesel, it's safe to say, was not a fan of the prorogation decision. You can read her commentary here.

1605 Now the prime minister, not an experienced speaker in Parliament after his years outside the chamber as Mayor of London, gets a breather. He hands over to Michael Gove, the other conservative face of the "Vote Leave" campaign in the 2016 referendum along with Johnson. Gove is briefing parliament on the country's planning for leaving the EU.

1553 Defeated Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart has already made his voting intentions this evening clear. Stewart, who went to renowned private school Eton like Johnson, has a rural constituency on the border with Scotland. He's voiced particular concerns about implications for the sheep farms so prevalent in the region. Stewart was the minister responsible for overseas development under Theresa May, but refused to join Johnson's Cabinet.

1545 Meanwhile, the UN's trade agency has come out with estimates saying that leaving the EU without a trade deal would cost the UK at least $16 billion annually in lost exports, representing roughly a 7% loss of overall UK exports to the EU. 

1540 A Scottish National Party MP refers in a question to perhaps the most symbolically significant Conservative who could theoretically face expulsion from the party for supporting the rebels, Nicholas Soames. Soames, a career Conservative, is the grandson of the late Winston Churchill — the subject of one of Boris Johnson's books. Churchill himself came within a whisker of expulsion from the Tories early in 1939 for refusing to support the appeasement of Nazi Germany. Johnson has reportedly threatened to withdraw the Conservative whip from any MPs who vote in favor of the opposition motion. 

1521 Boris Johnson said that in the case of a bill passing that makes it illegal to leave the EU without a deal, his government "will of course uphold the constitution and obey the law." In theory, he'd only really have two options if it passes: either obey the demand, or call an election instead, hoping to win a majority and then overturn the law. Johnson was not drawn on how he would "uphold the constitution." 

1504 Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn ends his statement by responding to Johnson on tonight's vote, to cheers from his party: "Later today this house has a last chance to stop the government from riding roughshod over constitutional and democratic rights in this country. So the cabal in Downing Street can crash us out without a deal, without any democratic mandate and against the majority of public opinion," Corbyn said. "He isn't winning friends in Europe, he's losing friends at home. His is a government with no mandate, no morals, and as of today, no majority." You can see Phillip Lee crossing the floor in the video below. 


1452 Boris Johnson ends his statement urging lawmakers to vote against today’s motion, saying it would "force me to go to Brussels and beg for an extension, force me to accept the terms offered, destroy any chance of negotiation for a new deal, and enable our friends in Brussels to dictate the terms of the negotiations." Johnson concluded with the line he has reportedly asked his MPs to repeat in the later debate: "There's only one way to describe this deal: It's [opposition Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn's surrender deal."

1442 Boris Johnson's G7 statement has not taken long to descend into cat-calls and mulitple shouts of "Order!" from speaker Bercow. Problematically for the prime minister, his statement coincided with Tory MP Phillip Lee crossing the floor of the Commons to sit with the Liberal Democrats, who advocate staying in the EU. Losing an MP means that Johnson's 1-seat majority — already dependent on support from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party — is no more. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a statement to MPs in the House of Commons, London.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a statement to MPs in the House of Commons, London.

1415 Welcome to live updates on another momentous day in Britain's House of Commons. While Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab takes questions on the floor on topics ranging from Hong Kong to Zimbabwe, and from Kashmir to fires in the Amazon rain forest, let's start with an outline of what's at stake later in the day. 

The bill put forward by the opposition Labour Party, with crucial support from some Conservatives opposed to a "no-deal Brexit," aims to force Boris Johnson to request a Brexit extension until at least January 31, 2020, unless a  deal emerges at the EU's October summit and passes the House of Commons. Johnson has said that he will not do this, and has strongly hinted that he may have to call a snap election if the law passes. You can read it in full in the tweet below. 

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