In another stunning defeat for Theresa May and her senior cabinet, MPs on Tuesday backed a measure intended to thwart the possibility of a 'no deal' Brexit by attaching an amendment to a crucial Finance Bill that will effectively force the UK government to shut down if Article 50 isn't suspended or Parliament doesn't explicitly vote to approve a 'no deal' exit.
The so-called "Cooper amendment" to the finance bill was tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and had become the focus of Brexit related drama since Parliament returned from its Christmas break this week. The vote passed 303-296 with the help of 20 Tory rebels.
Cable has been weakening all day (though it didn't react much to the vote).
Meanwhile, three Labour MPs also broke ranks to vote with the government.
Twenty Tory rebels voting against Government: Including Sir Michael Fallon... Greening, Gyimah, Soames, Vaizey, Letwin, Boles, pic.twitter.com/dmu4sSPCZO— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) January 8, 2019
In the wake of May's latest defeat, her government has stood by its rhetoric, with Treasury Minister Robert Jenrick saying the "simple truth" remained that the UK would leave the EU on 29 March. All the amendment would do, he told MPs, would be to make the UK "somewhat less prepared" for Brexit.
Sir Oliver Letwin, the former Tory minister who backed the amendment, said "the majority tonight that is expressed in this house will sustain itself. We will not allow a no-deal exit to occur at the end of March," the Guardian reported.
According to the BBC, the defeat comes a day after senior ministers spoke out about the risks associated with a 'no deal' Brexit. Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said the public would adopt a "dim view" of the government if it allowed Brexit to proceed without a deal, adding that it could pose a threat to public safety.
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn applauded Cooper for her efforts and heralded the vote as an important step toward preventing a no-deal Brexit.
This vote is an important step to prevent a no deal Brexit.— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) January 8, 2019
It shows that there is no majority in Parliament, the Cabinet or the country for crashing out of the EU without an agreement. https://t.co/frbXnPhhM8
May's government says it's still planning to hold a 'meaningful vote' on May's Brexit deal next week - a vote that looks likely to fail as May has failed to secure more concessions from the EU. Going forward, the vote will make it more difficult for May to whip up votes by effectively eliminating "no deal" as a threat that May can leverage to win over votes.
A spokeswoman for May's government said the passage of the amendment "does not change the fact" that the UK will be leaving the EU on March 29, and that "we will work with Parliament to make sure the tax system works smoothly in all Brexit scenarios".