May to lose meaningful vote?

Theresa May will most likely lose the meaningful vote on her Brexit deal


Brexit 'in danger' unless MPs back deal - PM

Theresa May has warned the UK faces "uncharted territory" if Parliament rejects her Brexit deal as she vowed to redouble her efforts to win MPs round.

Next week's vote would "definitely" go ahead, she told the BBC, as she promised new safeguards for Northern Ireland and to look at giving MPs more say in shaping future EU negotiations.

The UK's March exit was "in danger" if MPs did not back the deal, she said.

But one Tory Brexiteer said support for leaving without a deal was "hardening".

And one senior Labour figure said she believed a general election may be inevitable "within months" if there was deadlock in Parliament and Mrs May could not get her deal through.

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What will happen after today's meaningful vote on Brexit?

By Joe Harker

Today's the day! As long as you ignore that the day should have been last month but Theresa May delayed proceedings because she was facing a crushing defeat in the meaningful vote the House of Commons will have on her Brexit deal.

But yes, it's finally happening today. Provided she doesn't try to delay things again because, to borrow a former favoured phrase of the prime minister's, "nothing has changed". Comfort yourself with the suggestion that if she was going to delay the vote again she probably would have done it by now. She finally looks ready to face the music.

May is facing a crushing defeat, just as she was in December, with up to 100 of her own MPs expected to vote against her deal and render it practically impossible to pass through the Commons. There are no significant changes she can make, certainly not to win over enough of her own party to have a chance of winning.

Bloomberg reports that May has a plan B in place if and when she loses the vote. Since her government was defeated over the Grieve amendment she only has three sitting days of parliament to present an alternative option to the Commons.

A defeat for May's deal will likely mean a delay to Brexit. The exit date is March 29 but without a deal passed through the Commons the UK is headed for a no deal Brexit unless it tries to extend Article 50. Whether there's another vote, be it a referendum or general election, or more parliamentary wrangling that will take time that the prime minister has wasted so much of.

In a final speech urging her MPs to back her deal she warned that the UK was facing a stark choice between her deal or no Brexit at all. Leaving without a deal is an unpalatable option for many MPs but even the threat of it hasn't managed to scare MPs into backing the prime minister.

She spoke of a "duty" to implement the result of the referendum, hoping to present her deal as the option that would get the UK out of the EU but wouldn't cause as much damage as a no deal Brexit.

The prime minister might attempt to re run the vote multiple times and wind the clock down even more but parliament seems ready to reject the deal and even if May eventually manages to pass it through the Commons it will be clear that MPs didn't want it.

If and when she loses the meaningful vote on her Brexit deal May could be forced to consider that this is entirely her fault. Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Rick Wilford argued that the prime minister's "obstinacy" has made a heavy defeat "all but inevitable".

He has a point. It was May who decided she knew what the Brexit red lines in negotiations should be, she also decided the "will of the people" meant ignoring every other viewpoint on Brexit other than her own. Her strategy of telling opponents to sit down, shut up and be told what it was they voted for in the referendum has won over almost nobody.

This situation is a product of Theresa May's shoddy leadership on Brexit, she has made enemies out of doubters and doubters out of tentative supporters. Her decision to have the process controlled by herself and an inner circle of civil servants has turned off many who might have supported her if she'd struck a more conciliatory tone.

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If May loses Brexit vote, what on earth happens then?

The prime minister does have a strategy to prevent what she sees as the chaos of a no-deal Brexit.

The flaw in it is that the strategy probably has a shelf life of just over one week.

Because her strategy is to persuade MPs to back her version of leaving the EU in a vote on 15 or 16 January, and in the words of one of her senior ministers: "I will be shot for telling you this but we are going to lose that vote."

So what then?

Well, amazingly, no one around her - not her ministers, not her officials - seem to know.

Why not?

"She won’t tell us," says a minister.

"We go to see her. We give her our ideas about what to do next. She listens politely. She even asks questions. But none of us have a clue whether she agrees, whether she is persuaded. She gives us no hints. It is quite remarkable."

Of course her officials - her chief of staff Gavin Barwell, the cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill - are working on contingency plans for what should happen if (when) the vote is lost. That is their duty.

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