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Labour-led bid to block no-deal Brexit is defeated

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Likelihood of no-confidence vote in government increases after outcome

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Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 6:26am

MPs have rejected a bid to take control of Parliament’s timetable, blocking the latest attempt to stop a no-deal Brexit. 

Labour spearheaded the move, which would have given opponents of a no-deal Brexit the chance to table legislation to prevent the UK leaving without any agreement on the 31 October deadline. It was rejected by 309 votes to 298.

Sky News says the outcome means the government has “survived an attempt by the opposition to seize control of the House of Commons agenda”, while The Guardian says it hands Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson “a boost”. The former foreign secretary has insisted that the UK must leave the EU by the end of October with or without a deal.

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The result was greeted with cheers from the Tory benches, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was apparently heard telling Tory MPs: “You won’t be cheering in September.”

Ten Conservative MPs rebelled against the government by backing the motion. Eight Labour MPs - mostly Brexiteers or MPs for constituencies that voted Leave at the 2016 referendum – also rebelled against their party by voting against the motion.

Later, Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said: “This is a disappointing, narrow defeat.”

But he added “this is just the start, not the end of our efforts to block no deal” and “any Tory leadership candidate should know that parliament will continue to fight against no deal”.

Former Tory minister Sir Oliver Letwin, who voted for the motion, argued that making sure the Commons had a “decisive vote” on the Brexit plan ahead of the 31 October deadline was bigger than party politics.

He warned that it was “perfectly possible” for the next PM to usher in a no-deal exit by “simply doing nothing” at all. Another Tory, the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, said the motion was the “last sensible opportunity” to stop no deal.

However, the longstanding Tory Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash described it as a “phantom motion” which paved the way for “government by Parliament”.

MP Nick Boles, who resigned from the Tory party earlier this year, said: “No-deal Brexit on 31 October is back to being a racing certainty. It is very hard to see where any further legislative opportunities will come from.”

He added that a no-confidence vote to bring down the government is one option, saying: “So it’s now a question of politics – specifically whether a PM pursuing a no-deal Brexit can command and sustain the confidence of the House of Commons.”

The Guardian says for those who want to stop a no-deal Brexit, “it looks as though the only remaining option is likely to be the most explosive one – bringing down the government”.

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