Written by Stephen Castle and Richard Pérez-Peña
Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence in Parliament on Wednesday, but that did little to quell the turmoil gripping the British government over her plan to leave the European Union, coming a day after she suffered a historic defeat on that proposal.
The House of Commons voted 325-306 to reject the opposition motion of no confidence. A day earlier, it dealt May a defeat on her painstakingly negotiated agreement for Brexit, or the process of exiting the bloc.
Had it been successful, the no-confidence motion almost certainly would have ousted May and probably have forced a general election, adding layers of uncertainty in a country fast approaching the March 29 date for leaving the European Union.
Ordinarily, a prime minister would be expected to resign after suffering a big defeat on a signature bill. The vote of 432-202 against May’s Brexit plan was by far the biggest loss for a government on a major issue in modern times.
But Brexit has rewritten the rules of British politics. Once again May, the leader of the Conservative Party, lived to fight another day.
More than 100 lawmakers from her party who had opposed her Brexit bill voted to support her government.
So did legislators from the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland who also hated May’s plan.
Her ability to soak up political punishment and survive is an acute frustration to Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party. He began the no-confidence motion by reminding lawmakers that Tuesday’s vote was “the largest defeat in the history of our democracy,” adding that May was leading a “zombie government.”
Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party’s lawmakers at Westminster, accused the prime minister of presiding over a “political collapse,” adding that, in its pursuit of Brexit, the country was “on a path to self-destruction.”
May’s rejected proposal would have given Britain’s government power over immigration from Europe, and would have kept the country in the bloc’s trade system while a long-term agreement was negotiated. With the no-confidence motion having failed, attention turned rapidly to whether May has a credible Plan B for Brexit.
On Monday, May is required to return to Parliament with proposals on how she intends to proceed. Lawmakers then will have the opportunity to make new suggestions.