Theresa May braced for further Commons showdown after third humiliating defeat

Theresa May in the House of Commons. Credit : UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA
Theresa May in the House of Commons. Credit : UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA
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Theresa May will face another tense Commons battle next week as MPs prepare to seize the Parliamentary schedule for a second time in a last-ditch bid to break the Brexit deadlock.

The showdown comes after the Prime Minister suffered another humiliating defeat over her Withdrawal Agreement, when MPs rejected it for a third time by 344 to 286 votes.

Speaking after the vote, Mrs May said the UK would have to find “an alternative way forward”.

But within hours of the result, rumours circulated in Westminster that the Government could go back to the Commons with its deal for a fourth time next week.

On Monday, MPs will once again take control of the Parliamentary timetable in an attempt to end the Brexit deadlock by considering a range of options - despite the process failing to secure a majority for any plan when it was last held last week.

Despite today's result, Downing Street said it was not an “inevitability” that the UK would have to participate in the European elections and made clear she would continue to fight for her deal.

After defeats of 230 and 149 in the previous two Commons votes, a Number Ten source said they were “at least going in the right direction”.

“We continue to believe that the deal the PM has negotiated is the best outcome for the country and we will continue to seek a way forward,” the source said.

Meanwhile, European Council President Donald Tusk called an emergency summit of EU leaders in Brussels on April 10 to discuss the implications of the vote.

Speaking after the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a general election unless the Prime Minister was willing to find an alternative deal.

And Mrs May - who had promised to step down as Prime Minister if her deal was approved - appeared to hint that this was a possibility, telling MPs: “I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House.”

She said: “This House has rejected no deal. It has rejected no Brexit. On Wednesday it rejected all the variations of the deal on the table.

“And today it has rejected approving the Withdrawal Agreement alone and continuing a process on the future.

“This Government will continue to press the case for the orderly Brexit that the result of the referendum demands.”

Mr Corbyn told MPs: “The House has been clear this deal now has to change, there has to be an alternative found.

“And if the Prime Minister can’t accept that then she must go - not at an indeterminate date in the future but now, so that we can decide the future of this country through a general election.”

The deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptics, Steve Baker, called on Mrs May to step down immediately.

Declaring that this should be “the final defeat” for the PM’s deal - already rejected by 230 votes in January and 149 in March - Mr Baker said: “I regret to say it is time for Theresa May to follow through on her words and make way so that a new leader can deliver a Withdrawal Agreement which will be passed by Parliament.”

The fate of Mrs May’s deal was sealed by 34 of her own Conservative MPs who went through the No lobby, while only five Labour MPs voted with the Prime Minister.

The number of Tory rebels was fewer than half the 75 who opposed the deal in the Meaningful Vote of March 12 but enough to overturn the result had they voted the other way.

Among rebels were hardline Brexiteers including Mr Baker, Sir Bill Cash, Priti Patel, Owen Paterson and Sir John Redwood, along with supporters of a softer deal like Dominic Grieve, Justine Greening and Sam Gyimah.

Labour MPs backing the deal were Rother Valley’s Kevin Barron, Don Valley’s Caroline Flint, Rosie Cooper, Jim Fitzpatrick and John Mann, along with the party’s former MPs Frank Field and Ian Austin, now sitting as independents.

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said Mrs May had missed “numerous” opportunities to remedy the “deficiencies” in proposed backstop arrangements for the Irish border, which made the deal unacceptable to his party.

“Over the coming weeks and months, we will continue to play a central role to chart a route that respects the democratic desire to leave the European Union but that does so in a way that strengthens our United Kingdom,” said Mr Dodds.

Speaking at pro-Brexit protests outside Parliament, ex-Ukip leader Nigel Farage told the crowds: “I believe that what’s happened over the course of two years is actually one of the saddest and worst chapters in the history of our nation.”