LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (JANUARY 9, 2019) (PARLIAMENT TV) –
British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered an early defeat to her Brexit plans on Wednesday (January 9), when parliament demanded the government come up with a plan-B within days if she loses a vote on her deal to leave the European Union.
With less than three months before Britain is due to leave the EU, parliament began a five-day battle over May’s Brexit plan with a show of force – undermining her preferred timetable if lawmakers vote down her deal next Tuesday (January 15).
May has refused to retreat from her unpopular deal, which envisages close trading ties with the EU after leaving in March, pressing ahead with the vote that she looks set to lose after failing to win over her nominal Northern Irish allies.
Losing the vote would deepen the uncertainty over the future of Brexit, Britain’s biggest shift in foreign and trade policy for more than 40 years, and open the way for several different outcomes, ranging from a disorderly exit to another referendum.
Lawmakers voted 308-297 in favour of demanding the government come up with an alternative plan within three working days after Tuesday’s vote, rather than a planned 21-day limit, in a non-binding motion that nonetheless piles pressure on the government.
Responding to the vote, Brexit minister Stephen Barclay told parliament it was the government’s intention to act quickly if it lost Tuesday’s vote.
But combined with a vote late on Tuesday when the government lost on the finance bill, the defeats underline May’s precarious position in parliament.