Published: Wed, January 09, 2019
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British PM Theresa May loses key vote on Brexit procedure in parliament

British PM Theresa May loses key vote on Brexit procedure in parliament

British MPs will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's European Union withdrawal deal on January 15, the government said Tuesday, while denying growing speculation it might seek to delay Brexit if the agreement is rejected.

Seemingly oblivious to the chaos in London, envoys of the EU's 27 remaining governments meet in Brussels at 3 p.m today to discuss the implementation and legal ratification of the withdrawal agreement struck in November.

Rebellious Conservative MPs teamed up with opposition party Labour on Wednesday to vote for a motion created to prevent the government delaying key decisions on Brexit.

Labour has said it will table a motion of no confidence in the government if Mrs May's deal is voted down.

Downing Street had tried to see off the Grieve amendment by promising the PM would "seek to provide certainty quickly" if she loses the vote on her under-fire deal next week, as expected.

With Brexit looming on March 29, opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn accused May of "running down the clock in an attempt to blackmail" parliament into supporting her withdrawal deal.

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds described the meeting as a "very pleasant social occasion".

"The prime minister will be updating parliament tomorrow and she will be talking about the clarifications, the reassurances that parliament is seeking that the backstop will not be permanent".

The prime minister has already pulled the vote once with defeat looming, and a loss for the government would plunge Britain into "uncharted territory", according to May, putting the whole process up for grabs.

Sinn Féin negotiator Conor Murphy
Sinn Féin negotiator Conor Murphy

He said: "You said you would serve nine years, there has been the controversy of the recommendations of the Dame Laura Cox inquiry into the House of Commons, you have been defended particularly by two members on the other side about the importance of you being sustained in this position beyond nine years in order to oversee the discussions of the Brexit issue".

The government said it was an "inconvenience" but would not stop its preparations for leaving the EU.

Ian Murray, the Labour MP for Edinburgh South and a leading supporter of the People's Vote campaign, said: "The threat of a no deal Brexit has cynically used by the government for many months as part of their campaign to bully and intimidate Parliament into voting for a bad deal that would leave us worse off and offers less control".

A vote, initially slated for mid-December, is now scheduled for January 15 - and the government still looks likely to lose.

Extending the divorce beyond March 29 would require the unanimous agreement of EU heads of state and government in the European Council.

European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier has vowed that any assurances over the Brexit deal given to prime minister Theresa May won't weaken the Irish border backstop, according to the leader of Sinn Fein.

There was a major row in the Commons over whether the amendment could even be put to a vote, with Speaker John Bercow apparently disregarding the advice of his own clerks that it could not.

While the current numbers suggest Mrs May will still lose the vote, her government has said it will not be postponed a second time and will go ahead next Tuesday evening.

Conservative lawmaker and former minister Ken Clarke meanwhile repeated his call for Brexit to be delayed while parliament decides what to do next.

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