Prime Minister Theresa May has lost a Commons vote on her Brexit deal despite saying she had secured “legally-binding” changes which ensure the Irish backstop cannot be permanent.
Here’s how events unfolded and the reaction that followed:
Tory former Brexit minister Steve Baker said he had tabled a “Malthouse Compromise” amendment to Wednesday’s motion with Tory colleagues which would seek extension of Article 50 until May 22.
The motion states: “That this House notes the steps taken by the Government, the EU and its Member States to minimise any disruption that may occur should the UK leave the EU without an agreed Withdrawal Agreement and proposes that the Government should build on this work as follows:
“1. That the Government should publish the UK’s Day One Tariff Schedules immediately;
“2. To allow businesses to prepare for the operation of those tariffs, that the Government should seek an extension of the Article 50 process to 10.59pm on May 22nd 2019, at which point the UK would leave the EU;
“3. Thereafter, in a spirit of co-operation and in order to begin discussions on the Future Relationship, the Government should offer a further set of mutual standstill agreements with the EU and Member States for an agreed period ending no later than 30th December 2021, during which period the UK would pay an agreed sum equivalent to its net EU contributions and satisfy its other public international law obligations; and
“4. The Government should unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK.”
It was signed by Damian Green, Iain Duncan Smith, Nicky Morgan, Steve Baker, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Simon Hart and the DUP’s Nigel Dodds.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Now that the Prime Minister’s deal has been resoundingly defeated for a second time, what is abundantly clear is that the UK Government and Parliament have been unable to turn the result of the 2016 referendum into a workable or deliverable plan to leave the European Union.
“The votes now scheduled for the coming days will now give Parliament the chance to definitively reject the catastrophe of no-deal and to allow for more time for a sensible way forward to be found – but the Prime Minister should definitively rule out no-deal, instead of offering a free vote on the issue.
“Ruling out ‘no-deal’ and extending Article 50 would stop the clock on Brexit and enable another referendum on EU membership to be held. We will support any such referendum, provided it has the option to remain in the EU on the ballot paper.
“Scotland’s needs and voice have been ignored by the UK Government throughout the Brexit process, and today a handful of DUP MPs held more sway over Scotland’s future than our own national Parliament – that demonstrates more clearly than ever that the case for Scotland becoming an independent country has never been stronger.”
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he would “intensify” his country’s no-deal preparations.
He wrote on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by the outcome of the #Brexit vote this evening.
“Despite clear EU assurances on the backstop, we now face a chaotic #NoDeal #Brexit scenario. And time is almost up. We will intensify our #NoDeal preparation.”
Ian Blackford, the SNP Westminster leader, called the vote an “utter humiliation for the Prime Minister”, adding “we are now in a crisis”.
He told Sky News: “We must tomorrow remove any prospect of no deal. No deal would be disastrous.
“There is a real threat to jobs on a massive scale if there is no deal, the threat to the supply of medicines and food.
“We must in the first instance take our responsibilities in getting that risk off the table.”
It is expected that a plan for the Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as well as the no-deal tariff schedule, will be published on Wednesday morning.
Asked about Wednesday’s vote on whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal on March 29, DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds told Sky News: “Our position is simple.
“The best way to get a deal you can actually vote for is to keep the threat of a no-deal on the table.
“Once you take that threat off you are bound to be offered terms which are less advantageous in the sure and certain knowledge that the other side have that you’re not going to walk away. So, it’s totally self-defeating, it’s utterly counter-productive.”
A Downing Street source said the Prime Minister had not discussed resigning with her team and said it “remains the case” that the Commons recently expressed its confidence in the Government.
The source said: “It still remains the case that the House of Commons as a whole has quite recently expressed its confidence in the Government, which is of course led by the Prime Minister.”
Asked why Mrs May did not announce her resignation on Tuesday night, deputy Conservative chairman James Cleverley said: “Because the Prime Minister has made it clear she regards this as her professional duty to deliver the Brexit that people voted for in 2016.”
He told the BBC: “We’ve not been through a situation before where we’ve been extricating ourselves from the EU. These are unprecedented times. Judging things on past norms is no longer the case.
“The Prime Minister is having to navigate a very, very difficult course through the unique set of circumstances we are being presented with.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable suggested Tories may now move against the PM.
He told the Press Association: “I’m afraid her authority is completely shot. How she can continue with the same plan of action is incomprehensible.
“Something has got to give. I should imagine the Conservative Party will just put an end to this.”
Chuka Umunna, who quit Labour to form the Independent group of breakaway MPs, said “the jury’s out” on whether the vote made a second referendum result more likely.
He told BBC News: “Ultimately with gridlock in this place continuing it’s hard to see how you resolve the gridlock without referring it back to the people.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of Brexiteer MPs, said “the problem with the deal was that it didn’t deliver on the commitment to leave the EU cleanly and that the backstop would have kept us in the customs union and de facto in the single market”.
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.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “I welcome tonight’s vote to reject the Government’s bad Brexit deal.
“The Prime Minister needs to put our city and our country first, and withdraw Article 50.
“It’s time to give the British public the final say on Brexit.”
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said no-deal preparations “are now more important than ever before” following the vote.
He tweeted: “The EU has done everything it can to help get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line. The impasse can only be solved in the #UK.
“Our ‘no-deal’ preparations are now more important than ever before.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, raising a point of order, said: “The Government has been defeated again by an enormous majority.
“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.”
Mr Corbyn said the Commons has to come together with a proposal that could be negotiated, adding Labour will put forward its plans again.
He suggested a general election should also be held.
She then set out the next steps in the Brexit process, confirming there would be a vote tomorrow on whether MPs back a no deal exit.
The PM said: “Just like the referendum there are strongly held and equally legitimate views on both sides. For that reason I can confirm this it will be a free vote on this side of the House”.
Mrs May stressed her responsibilities for Northern Ireland, where Stormont is still suspended.
She said: “I’m conscious of my duties as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the potential damage to the union that leaving without a deal could do, when one part of our country is without a devolved government.”
Announcing the free vote, Mrs May told MPs: “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.”
The Prime Minister said she had “personally struggled with this choice” but the best way to leave was “in an orderly way” with a deal.
Theresa May said she “profoundly regrets the decision this House has taken tonight”.
The Prime Minister made a statement after the result of the vote was read out, saying: “I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is the UK leaves the European Union in orderly fashion with a deal.
“And that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed only deal available.”
If the Commons declines to approve a no-deal Brexit, a vote on extending Article 50 will take place on Thursday, said Mrs May.
The motion will say that the Commons declines to leave the EU without a deal, said Mrs May.
Following the defeat of her Brexit deal in the second “meaningful vote”, Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that she will grant a free vote to Conservative MPs in a vote on Wednesday on whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal on March 29.
MPs have rejected the Government’s Brexit deal by 391 votes to 242, majority 149.
Opposition MPs voting against the Prime Minister’s deal have tweeted to say they have been joined by a large number of Conservatives and the lobby is “absolutely rammed”.
Labour’s Jo Stevens tweeted: “PM will lose this vote resoundingly. Our voting lobby is rammed.”
The SNP’s Pete Wishart added: “Government going to get gubbed. No lobby full of Tories and DUP.”
Former LibDem leader Tim Farron tweeted: “Haven’t seen the no lobby this full since the last meaningful vote. Wouldn’t be surprised if TM just tried to plough on regardless though….”
And Labour’s Luke Pollard said: “The no lobby is full of Tories. The PM has lost her deal again for sure. But by how many?”
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) labelled the deal “an abject failure” as he summed up why Labour would vote against it.
He said: “It’s now obvious that the expectations, having been raised, have not been fulfilled and the promises have not been kept.
“Amongst the problems for the Prime Minister and the Government is they have been living day to day, week to week, avoiding defeat today by promising something tomorrow…
“As tonight’s vote is likely to show, today has caught up with tomorrow – there can be no more buying time.”
Tory former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers said she would also vote against the deal.
She told the Press Association: “I voted against this deal two months ago because it was a bad deal, and it still is.”
Conservative former Brexit minister Steve Baker said he thought the deal would be “significantly defeated”.
He told reporters after a meeting of the ERG: “No-one should be under any illusions whatsoever that each one of us is aware of the tens of thousands of voters we represent on both sides of the argument, and all of us, and I think I speak for all my colleagues, feel the burden of their requests for what we do as well as our own judgment and our party’s.
“It’s a difficult decision to make and in that context some people have changed their minds tonight after listening to what’s been said.”
Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would be voting against the deal.
He told the Press Association: “I shall be voting against the Government this evening … I expect the majority of the ERG will vote against.”
Mr Rees-Mogg said he was not worried Brexit would be delayed, saying: “The law remains as it is and the statute law is that we leave on the 29th March.”
Former sports minister Tracey Crouch said she was backing the deal this time, having opposed it in January.
“I am not comfortable with the flawed Withdrawal Agreement to say the very least but following the Attorney General’s statement to Parliament today, I am tonight minded to support the deal,” she said.
“It is not perfect but this Brexit is better than the very real risk of no Brexit at all.”
Conservative former minister Sir Edward Leigh called for the deal to be backed. He said: “I appeal to fellow Brexiteers – you may not like the deal, it’s not perfect, but it delivers Brexit and let’s go for it.”
Tory MP Simon Clarke, leaving the European Research Group meeting, said a “majority” of the group would vote against the deal.
Conservative MP Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) attacked hard Brexiteers for spreading a “conspiracy theory” that the Irish backstop was a trap, despite the UK negotiating team having asked for it as a concession from the EU.
The former Welsh Secretary said: “Rather than defend the fruit of our efforts, it has been trashed with this conspiracy theory that it’s an entrapment mechanism.”
Mr Johnson added: “I’m afraid that this deal has now reached the end of the road and if it is rejected tonight, I hope that it will be put to bed and we can all face up to the reality of the position and the opportunity that we have, and what we need to do then, now, is to behave not timorously, but as a great country does, and we have broadly two options.
“We can either decide that if the EU is unwilling to accept the minor changes that we propose that we’ll leave without a deal and, yes, I accept that that is in the short term the more difficult road, but in the end it’s the only safe route out of the abyss and the only safe path to self respect.
“Or we can decide to take a route that will end in humiliation, accepting arrangements with the EU which seem to limit disruption in the short term but will leave as an EU protectorate with many important rules set elsewhere.”
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the Prime Minister and Attorney General had merely sowed an “apron of fig leaves” to cover the embarrassment of the Brexit deal.
The Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP said: “The result is like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden – they have sowed an apron of fig leaves that does nothing to conceal the embarrassment and indignity of the UK.”
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said he would not be backing the PM’s deal, explaining that the backstop is a “red herring”.
The Tory MP for Beaconsfield said “there is no unanimity” on what kind of relationship the UK wants with the EU, saying “no-one was willing to think through what a vote to leave would actually mean”.
He said: “With reluctance and sadness, I cannot go through and allow this further ratchet in the destruction of our country to take place.”
Mr Grieve finished by saying: “I would be utterly, utterly going against my instincts and my judgement if I was to facilitate the process of further self-mutilation for our country, which is what I believe we are currently embarked on.”
The SNP criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s response after they put forward the possibility of another independence referendum.
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood said Tory Eurosceptics should support the latest version of the Prime Minister’s deal.
He said: “This has been a long journey. This is the mother of all parliaments and the mother of all votes. The clock is ticking down, and she [Theresa May] has provided some assurances.
“It’s now turned more political than it has legal, where individuals are looking for ladders to climb down from the positions they have taken.
“The bottom line is, if we don’t get this deal across the line then we head towards a lighter, softer Brexit or potentially no Brexit at all, and that must be the wake up call for any individual thinking of voting against the Prime Minister.”
Ms O’Neill continued: “The business community, the farming community, the Civil Service, educationalists and trade unionists have all warned in recent weeks about the dire consequences of a no-deal crash on our economy.
“The DUP continues to ignore these warnings, just as they ignore the fact that the majority of people in the north voted against Brexit in the first place.
“This blinkered strategy is reckless in the extreme. It is driving us all towards a no-deal crash that would be catastrophic.
“At this critical time, the DUP have a choice to make. It is time to put people’s jobs, livelihoods and peace first before selfish party political interests.”
Sinn Fein’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill claimed the Democratic Unionist Party is “hell bent” on pursuing a reckless and blinkered Brexit strategy that is “driving us all towards a no-deal catastrophe”.
“The EU has shown considerable patience and a willingness to facilitate a Brexit agreement that enables Britain to leave the EU without creating a hard border in Ireland, or undermining the Good Friday Agreement,” she said.
“The way to achieve that is through the Withdrawal Agreement and the ‘backstop’ contained within it.
“There can be no deviation or diminution from that position.”
Brexit uncertainty hangs like a dark cloud over many border communities in Ireland, local traders have warned.
As Storm Gareth rolled in off the Atlantic on Tuesday, people on living on busy roads between Co Cavan and Co Fermanagh expressed concern that the future of the frontier remains unclear.
Butcher Gerard Crowe, who has been trading in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, for 30 years, used to own a second shop in Derrylin during the Troubles. He closed it in 1993 having found a daily two-hour wait on either side of the border checkpoints unmanageable.
He said Brexit has already had an impact on northern trade, with the number of shoppers from across the border halving in the last year.
Conservative MP for Mansfield Ben Bradley told the Press Association: “We’ve got the legal text and the Attorney General’s advice which makes it clear that the risk has reduced for being tied to something permanently, but it is not totally gone.
“The deal doesn’t fulfil everything we’ve asked for but we have to weigh things up with balance. To me, the reduced risk of being tied into something is preferable at this point to the ever increasing risk of delay or no Brexit at all.
“Parliament is determined to make this as difficult as possible and I’m now at the stage where if we are going to leave on the 29th the only way that’s going to happen is with this deal. I don’t like it but we are going to have to play the ball where it lies as we speak and just get things done.
“I really fear for what could happen. It seems as though this won’t pass tonight, or tomorrow when Parliament may have to extend Article 50, which my constituents won’t be happy with.
“The best course of action now is to pass the deal and leave, then we can think about the long term relationship and live to fight another day.”
Theresa May had to battle a croaky voice as she made her Brexit statement ahead of tonight’s crucial vote.
European Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen said if the deal was rejected the prospect of a “hard Brexit” moved closer and his advice was “fasten your seatbelt”.
He told reporters in Strasbourg: “Depending on the vote in the Commons, we are either moving forward to orderly withdrawal or hard Brexit is closer again, more close than ever it has been.
“So, keep your hands on the wheel, look forward and fasten your seatbelt.”
Tory MP Sir Bill Cash (Stone) said the ERG group of Eurosceptics did not just have a problem with the backstop, but that their concerns were around “control over laws”.
The veteran backbencher said he was “profoundly determined to vote against this withdrawal agreement for those reasons alone”.
But he added that during the proposed transition period “for a number of years we will be at the mercy of our competitors” in terms of writing new EU laws in various sectors which will affect the UK.
Sir Bill said that “we will not control our laws over the period of time”, saying he cannot back the Withdrawal Agreement, adding: “I do hope that many other members will do likewise.”
Speaking after him, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) said: “To stand here today with only 17 days to go until we leave the EU, to know that Scotland’s historic place in Europe is under threat, is devastating.”
Earlier in the day, Michael Gove had compared Theresa May to Manchester United ahead of the Commons vote, during an interview with BBC Radio 4 Today.
DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said it was “very likely” that there will be “probably successful” attempts to delay Brexit if the Prime Minister’s deal is rejected.
He told Sky News: “It looks very likely that on Thursday if the vote doesn’t go through tonight, on Thursday there will be attempts in the House and probably successful attempts in the House to extend the time in which we stay within the EU.”
Mr Wilson said if an extension of Article 50 was voted through the Commons that “after the end of June we will have to leave the EU because we have not participated in the European elections”.
Mr Corbyn concluded: “I believe there is a majority in this House for the sort of sensible, credible and negotiable deal that Labour has set out and I look forward to parliament taking back control so that we can succeed where this Government has so blatantly failed.
“Those people all around this country who at the moment are very, very concerned for their future, their communities, their jobs, in the case of EU nationals their very right to remain in this country, as indeed for British nationals living across the EU.
“Parliament owes it to them to get some degree of certainty by rejecting the Prime Minister’s proposal and bringing forward what we believe to be a credible set of alternatives. Parliament should do its job today and say no to the Prime Minister.”
Mr Corbyn said: “If this deal narrowly scrapes through tonight, I don’t think it will, but if it did, we believe the option should be to go back to the people for a confirmatory vote on it, if that is the case, but we do not believe it should go through.”
He said: “The Prime Minister set herself a series of objectives, she hasn’t met any of those objectives, she’s brought back exactly the same deal and expects us to vote on it again, I hope the House rejects it.”
He added: “The Prime Minister is stuck in a groove that believes only her deal is the thing that should be voted on, she wasn’t listening to what we were saying or what was included in our letter, and that is really the problem. The documents in front of us offer no clarity and no certainty.”
He went on: “It’s simply not good enough to vote for a blindfold Brexit, so we will vote against this deal tonight as I urge all members to do.”
ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said he had not yet decided which way to vote and would await a meeting of the Eurosceptic group at 5pm before making up his mind.
Mr Rees-Mogg said that abstention on such a serious issue was not “a realistic prospect” for many MPs.
“The question we really have to look at is ‘When the Prime Minister says the risk of not voting for her deal is that we don’t leave, is that a serious risk or is that a phantom?’” he told Sky News.
“My current view is that it is basically a phantom and, therefore, it is safe to vote against this deal again tonight and look to leaving on March 29 without a deal.
“But what she said has to be taken seriously and considered. It’s not a risk I would like to take if it is a real one.”
Mr Rees-Mogg played down the prospect of Mrs May being forced out by a heavy defeat, saying: “If it is less than 230, the Prime Minister will be able to say she is making some progress, so I wouldn’t worry about the Prime Minister’s position.”
Downing Street said Theresa May remained “absolutely focused on winning” the vote on Tuesday night and insisted she was not preparing for a general election.
A source said: “We are not preparing for and we do not want a general election. Our position is unchanged.”
The source also said reports that the Conservative campaign headquarters were preparing for the upcoming European elections were “incorrect”.
“We are not preparing candidates because we are not going to participate as a party in European parliamentary elections.”
The Prime Minister intervened on Mr Corbyn to tell him his alternative deal had been rejected by MPs and he should listen to that.
She said: “When the deal the Government had negotiated was rejected overwhelmingly by this House, he said we should listen. We have listened.
“The other week his proposals were rejected overwhelmingly by this House – why is he not listening?”
Mr Corbyn replied he spent “a great deal of time listening to people” on the shop floor and in small businesses, and “they want some degree of certainty”, adding “her deal does not offer that degree of certainty at all”.
Mr Corbyn accused the Government of trying to “fool” its own backbenchers and the British people over its Brexit deal.
He said: “The unilateral statement is a weak Government trying to fool its own backbenchers because the EU has not even signed up to it.”
He continued: “The Government is in real problems because they are trying to fool the people into somehow believing that somehow or other the deal she has offered is the only one that is available.
“It is not and they very well know that.”
Responding to Mrs May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said “not a single word” of the Withdrawal Agreement had changed.
He said: “After three months of running down the clock the Prime Minister has, despite very extensive delays, achieved not a single change to the Withdrawal Agreement – not one single word has changed.
“In terms of the substance, literally nothing has changed … There is no unilateral exit mechanism, there is not time limit, there are no alternative arrangements.”
Mrs May urged MPs to back the deal, saying: “It was not this House that decided it was time for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, it was the British people.
“It falls to us here to implement their decision, their desire for change, their demand for a better, more open, more successful future for our country.
“Today is the day that we can begin to build that future.”
The PM added: “Let us show what this House can achieve when we come together, let us demonstrate what politics is for.
“Let us prove beyond all doubt we believe democracy comes before party, faction or personal ambition.”
She finished by saying: “The time has come to deliver on the instruction we were given. The time has come to back this deal and I commend this motion to the House.”
On the political declaration, Mrs May said: “I’m sure we can all learn lessons from how we approach this first phase of the negotiations as we move onto the second.
“For my part, I’ve no doubt that the Government does need to build a strong consensus in the House before we go onto negotiate the future relationship. Not least to ensure the process of ratification is smoother than that for the withdrawal agreement.
“That’s why we’ve committed to give a much stronger and clearer role for this House, and for the other place during the next phase. Not just a consensus in parliament either, businesses, trade unions and civil society must all play a much bigger part contributing their expertise in a collective national effort to secure the very best future relationship with the EU.
“That new approach will start with the withdrawal agreement Bill if the deal passes tonight, notice of presentation will be given tomorrow and the Bill will be introduced on Thursday.”
When asked if the Irish Attorney General’s advice has changed, Ireland’s deputy leader Simon Coveney said that there are no changes to the backstop.
“There are no changes to the backstop, what is significant and different, and has legal effect, is around the reassurance of the temporary nature of backstop.
“This is an insurance policy that nobody wants to use.”
Daniel Kawczynski, a member of the European Research Group, said: “We got the legal opinion from the Attorney General, which was not as strong as we had hoped for.
“Then our independent panel of legal experts in the ERG, the eight of them, have given us their opinion that those guarantees are not sufficient and not watertight, and now we hear that the DUP will not be supporting the deal. So it’s going to be very very difficult for Brexiteers like me to support the Prime Minister this evening.
“Now, Mr Juncker is saying ‘no more’. And that’s the gamble we have to take – if we don’t vote for this, what will happen if there is an extension of Article 50?”
Theresa May said: “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 can we get on with what we came here to do, what we were sent here to do.”
The Prime Minister added: “We cannot serve our country by overturning a democratic decision of the British people.
“We cannot serve by prolonging a debate the British people now wish to see settle.
“And we cannot serve by refusing to compromise, reinforcing instead of healing the painful divisions we see within our society and across our country.”
A DUP source told the Press Association that the party’s 10 MPs will vote against Theresa May’s deal on Tuesday evening.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “We welcome the progress the European commission and the British Government have made on the withdrawal agreement.
“The SDLP welcomes the continued protection for the backstop and the recommitment to avoiding a hard border in Ireland.
“We are hopeful that the deal passes tonight to ensure exiting without a deal is avoided.”
SNP MP Stephen Gethins (North East Fife) told Mrs May she will “lose tonight and lose badly”, which he said “will drag this place and jobs and businesses over the edge with that threat of a no-deal”.
He said: “Is the responsible thing to do now not to seek that extension so we can get some kind of way out of this calamity?”
Mrs May said MPs needed to “have faith with the British people” and support the deal.
Mrs May reeled off a list of “core elements” she said were delivered by the deal.
She said: “It sends a message to the whole world about the sort of country the UK will be in the years and decades ahead … To our friends and allies who have long looked up to us as a beacon of pragmatism and decency and a message to those who do not share our values and whose interests diverge from ours. It says this: the UK is a country that honours the democratic decisions taken by our people in referendums and in elections.”
She added: “I believe that we should be delivering on the vote of the British people in 2016, but I also believe it is important that we give businesses … the certainty for their future, and there is only one certainty if we do not pass this vote tonight, and that is that uncertainty will continue for our citizens and for our businesses.”
She added: “We are a country where passionately-held views do not stop us from making compromises to achieve progress. We’re a country that values both our national sovereignty and the unbreakable bonds of a shared history.”
She went on: “A bad deal would be even worse than no deal, but best of all is a good deal, and this is a good deal.”
Tory MP James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) referenced Mrs May’s voice, saying: “She may have slightly lost her voice, but is it not true that were we to have a second referendum, 17 and a half million people would have lost their voice?
Mrs May said: “I entirely agree with him. I believe it is absolutely imperative for this House that we meet the decision that was taken by the British people in June 2016 that we deliver on that referendum, and that we deliver Brexit for the British people.
“As I say, there is a danger that a failure to agree a deal that we could end up in a situation where we have no Brexit at all.”
The Prime Minister joked that you “should hear Jean-Claude Juncker’s voice” after she revealed she had lost her voice as she stepped up to the despatch box.
Theresa May’s vocal struggles returned after her speech to the Conservative Party conference in 2017 was infamously overshadowed by her inability to speak.
She could only get out the first two words of her speech, saying “Mr Speaker” before coughing and clearing her throat.
As Labour MPs joked she could not make her speech, the PM then quipped: “Okay, you may say that, but you should hear Jean-Claude Juncker’s voice as a result of our conversation.”
The DUP has indicated that the party will not support the Prime Minister’s deal, saying in a statement “that sufficient progress has not been achieved at this time”.
Theresa May, battling a croaky voice and with husband Philip watching from the gallery, told MPs that “Brexit could be lost” if her deal is rejected.
The Prime Minister told the Commons: “The danger for those of us who want to have faith in the British public and deliver on their vote for Brexit, is that if this vote is not passed tonight, if this deal is not passed, then Brexit could be lost.”
Commons Speaker John Bercow has told MPs he has selected no amendments to the Government’s Brexit deal motion.
A vote on the deal is expected at 7pm, with the result at approximately 7.15pm.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox addresses the Commons
Charles Walker, vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, said defeat in the meaningful vote would lead to a general election.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “If it doesn’t go through tonight, as sure as night follows day, there will be a general election within a matter of days or weeks.
“It is not sustainable, the current situation in Parliament.”
The Leave-backing European Research Group has recommended MPs do not back Theresa May’s Brexit deal after its so-called Star Chamber determined that the Government’s new Brexit agreement does not meet the tests set for it.
The ERG’s Star Chamber released conclusions which said: “Yesterday’s documents considered individually and collectively do not deliver ‘legally binding changes’ to the WA (Withdrawal Agreement) or to the (backstop) Protocol.
“They fail to fulfil the commitment made by Government to the House in response to the Brady amendment ‘to obtain legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement’.”
Mrs May’s Strasbourg agreements “do not provide any exit mechanism from the Protocol which is under the UK’s control”, said the Star Chamber group, made up of legally-trained Tory MPs Sir Bill Cash, David Jones, Dominic Raab, Suella Braverman, Michael Tomlinson and Robert Courts, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds and QC Michael Howe.