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MPs vote against government's Brexit bill for second time in another humiliation for Prime Minister Theresa May

by Paul Francis and Geoffrey Bew

The Prime Minister has suffered a second crushing defeat in a bid to persuade MPs to back her Brexit deal.

The result has placed a question mark over Theresa May's premiership and some are speculating about the possibility of a snap election.

MPs voted against her deal by 391 votes to 242 - a majority of 149.

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It's been another tough day in the office for Prime minister Theresa May
It's been another tough day in the office for Prime minister Theresa May

They voted against the deal by a smaller margin than they had done in January but the scale of the defeat will make it difficult to break the deadlock.

Kent's MPs - as expected - were broadly divided as they had been before.

Speaking immediately after the result of the vote, Mrs May told the House of Commons: "I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is the UK leaves the EU in an orderly fashion with a deal and that the deal we have negotiated is the best - indeed the only - deal available.

"Tonight we will table a motion for a debate tomorrow to test whether the house supports leave the EU without a deal on March 29.

"This is an issue of grave importance for the future of our country.

"Just like the referendum there are strongly held and equally legitimate views on both sides.

"For that reason I can confirm that this will be a free vote on this side of the house.

"I'm passionate about delivering the result of the referendum, but I equally, passionately, believe the best way to do that is to leave in an orderly way with a deal.

The front pages of British newspapers on the day after the Brexit referendum in 2016
The front pages of British newspapers on the day after the Brexit referendum in 2016

"And I still believe there is a majority in the house for that course of action.

"I'm conscious also of my duties, as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the potential damage to the union leaving without a deal could do."

In response to Mrs May's comments, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Commons: "The government has been defeated again by an enormous majority and they must now accept their deal is clearly dead and does not have the support of this house.

"Quite clearly no-deal must be taken off the table.

How Kent's MPs voted tonight

For:

Damian Green (Ashford)

Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet)

Greg Clarke (Tunbridge Wells)

Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester and Strood)

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling)

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent)

Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford)

Helen Grant (Maidstone and Weald)

Against:

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe)

Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet)

Adam Holloway (Gravesham)

Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey)

Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks)

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham)

Charlie Elphicke (Dover and Deal)

Rosie Duffield (Canterbury)

Gareth Johnstone (Dartford)

Jeremy Corbyn has called for a general election
Jeremy Corbyn has called for a general election

"The Prime Minister carries on threatening us all with the dangers of no-deal, knowing full well the damage that will do to the British economy.

"This party will put forward our proposals again which are about a negotiated customs union, access to the market and protection of rights.

"The Prime Minister has run down the clock and the clock has run out on her.

"Maybe it's time instead we had a general election and the people could choose who their government should be."

Here's how today's events unfolded

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay said a snap election would achieve nothing and the results would probably be the same as last time.

He said despite the defeat Theresa May could continue as PM.

"I could not support the proposed deal and felt that it was based on the fact that if we did not we could get something worse," he told KentOnline.

"I don't see the point of a snap general election. What would it achieve?"

He also rejected the suggestion Mrs May had lost some of her authority, adding "She could still turn things around."

Britain voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48% for stay
Britain voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48% for stay

Reacting to the vote, a spokesman for European Council president Donald Tusk said: "We regret the outcome of tonight's vote and are disappointed that the UK government has been unable to ensure a majority for the withdrawal agreement agreed by both parties in November.

"On the EU side we have done all that is possible to reach an agreement.

"Given the additional assurances provided by the EU in December, January and yesterday, it is difficult to see what more we can do.

"If there is a solution to the current impasse it can only be found in London.

"The EU for its part continues to stand by the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, which serves to prevent a hard border in Ireland and preserve the integrity of the single market unless and until alternative arrangements can be found.

"With only 17 days left to 29 March, today's vote has significantly increased the likelihood of a 'no-deal' Brexit.

"We will continue our no-deal preparations and ensure that we will be ready if such a scenario arises.

"Should there be a UK reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 will consider it and decide by unanimity.

"The EU27 will expect a credible justification for a possible extension and its duration.

"The smooth functioning of the EU institutions will need to be ensured.”

Mrs May had started the day with a degree of optimism that she could win round enough MPs to get the deal over the line.

Prime Minister Theresa May meets Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, at Downing Street in 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May meets Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, at Downing Street in 2017

But the mood of optimism was rapidly replaced by pessimism.

The first blow came in the morning when the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox delivered his verdict on the question of the legality of the new deal and whether it offered greater security around the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop.

His declaration that there was no real difference was a setback and set the tone for the day.

Speaking with a sore throat, Mrs May urged MPs to get behind her but her plea fell on deaf ears.

"This is the moment and this is the time - time for us to come together, back this motion and get the deal done.

"Because only then we can get on with what we need to do, what we were sent here to do."

There were loyal declarations by some of the county's MPs but dissenting voices too.


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