- MPs voted 309-298 against a motion that could have allowed Parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
- Opposition MPs had sought the power to pass legislation later this month that could’ve block the next prime minister from leaving the EU without a deal.
- The motion had been backed by opposition parties and several rebel Conservative MPs.
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LONDON – A bid to block Britain’s next prime minister from forcing a no-deal Brexit has failed after the House of Commons rejected an opposition motion designed to block the UK from leaving the EU without a deal in October.
Members of Parliament voted 309-298 against a motion tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and supported by a cross-party group of MPs, including Conservative MP and former minister Oliver Letwin, which could have paved the way to preventing Britain leaving the EU without a deal.
“This is a disappointing, narrow defeat,” Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said after the result.
“But this is just the start, not the end of our efforts to block no deal. Labour stands ready to use whatever mechanism it can to protect jobs, the economy and communities from the disastrous consequences of a no deal Brexit,” he added.
Eight Labour MPs joined with the government to oppose the motion, with a dozen more abstaining.
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If the motion had been successful, then backbench MPs would have been handed full control of parliamentary business on June 25, allowing them the ability to pass legislation that could force Britain’s next prime minister from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal.
The vote came just hours after the favourite to succeed Theresa May insisted that he would take Britain out of the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.
“After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on October 31,” Boris Johnson said at a speech in central London.
“Delay means defeat. Delay means Corbyn. Kick the can and we kick the bucket,” he added.
Two of Johnson’s rival candidates, the Brexiteers Dominic Raab and Esther McVey, have said they would be willing to go as far as to suspend Parliament in order to force through their preferred outcome of no-deal on October 31.
How could MPs stop a no-deal Brexit?
There are limited options available to those wishing to prevent the next prime minister from pursuing a no-deal Brexit. Parliament has previously intervened on this issue through seeking to amend major Brexit votes brought forward by the government.
However, with no such votes required before Britain’s exit date of October 31, an incoming prime minister could in theory force Britain’s exit through a combination of sitting on their hands and suspending Parliament in order to prevent any binding votes being brought forward.
Today’s cross-party motion sought to pre-empt that by forcing the current government to allocate parliamentary time at the end of June, in which MPs can then pass legislation that would seek to prevent a new prime minister from leaving the EU without a deal.
Such legislation was previously pursued by MPs in the run-up to Britain’s original exit date of March 31, but was later withdrawn after the government indicated that they would delay Britain’s exit.
Such legislation, if successfully renewed later this month, could have forced the incoming prime minister to either seek a delay, or if that proved unsuccessful, to simply revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit.
Faced with such a prospect, the new PM may then feel they have little choice but to seek a general election.