It appears a cross-party group of lawmakers who have been conspiring for weeks to wrest power away from Theresa May's government has emerged victories after a contentious Monday evening vote.
During the vote on the "Letwin Amendment" , hordes of Tory backbenchers joined with opposition MPs, and even some government ministers (one of whom, Minister for Business and Industry Richard Harrington, resigned from the cabinet to support the amendment) to defy the government whips and vote to assume control over the Commons agenda. The amendment, which had been put forth by Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin, passed by a slim margin of 329 vs. 302. Finally, MPs also voted in favor of the government motion
Here's the text.
LETWIN Amendment A: Seeks to change the rules of parliament on March 27 in order to provide time for lawmakers to debate and hold indicative votes. It has been signed by more than 120 lawmakers. The result of any such indicative votes would not be binding on the government but if it showed a majority for an alternative Brexit path. A similar amendment voted on earlier this month lost by two votes, this is therefore expected to have a good chance of passing.
The amendment calls for time to be set aside on Wednesday for a series of 'indicative votes' on alternatives to the withdrawal agreement that May negotiated with the EU. The options will range from a 'soft' Brexit that could cross certain of May's 'red lines' (like remaining in the customs union and/or single market), to a second referendum, to "no Brexit at all".
Harrington wrote a scathing resignation letter, blaming May for "playing roulette with lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people in this country."
This evening I wrote to the PM to offer her my resignation pic.twitter.com/Z0QU5lbeJ1— Richard Harrington (@Richard4Watford) March 25, 2019
UK Minister Steve Brine, Undersecretary of State for Primary Care and Public Health, has also resigned, as has Minister of State for the Foreign Office Alistair Burt. Meanwhile, MPs narrowly defeated 'Amendment F' - the Beckett Amendment - which calls for Parliament to hold a vote on whether to leave with 'no deal' if the UK comes within 7 days of the deadline without a deal. Finally, the Commons passed a motion that confirms indicative votes will now happen - by a margin of 327 to 300.
On Beckett amendment, which represents maximum evisceration by MPs of no deal Brexit without actually removing it as default (only EU can do that, or government if it revokes Article 50), rebels lose narrowly by 311 to 314
On Beckett amendment, which represents maximum evisceration by MPs of no deal Brexit without actually removing it as default (only EU can do that, or government if it revokes Article 50), rebels lose narrowly by 311 to 314— Robert Peston (@Peston) March 25, 2019
Frankly there is no conspicuous logic to MPs backing Letwin and not Beckett. But that is the Brexit Commons for you— Robert Peston (@Peston) March 25, 2019
Ultimately, some 30 conservatives broke ranks to support the Letwin Amendment.
It's worth noting that TWICE as many Tory MPs backed the Letwin amendment tonight compared to the Benn amendment last week— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) March 25, 2019
The 15 new rebels are:
The pound strengthened on the vote, which upped the odds of a 'softer' Brexit, or - like we said above - no Brexit.
In its response to the vote, the government issued a statement saying the power grab "upends the balance of power" and sets "a dangerous unpredictable precedent."
BREAKING government response to vote tonight— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) March 25, 2019
“This amendment instead upends the balance between our democratic institutions and sets a dangerous, unpredictable precedent for the future.” pic.twitter.com/DT5jVeoSQ4
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn responded that the Commons must decide if "any deal should be put to people in confirmatory referendum."
After the vote, the Sun became the latest to report that May had offered to the Brexiteer set to resign if the Commons would pass her deal: That she would consider resigning if MPs would pass her deal. As the voting warps up, we can follow along live here:
MPs reject amendment to give MPs time to vote on a no-deal #Brexit or seek an extension, if we get within seven days of leaving the EU without a deal.— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 25, 2019
Follow live updates as three government ministers resign: https://t.co/bMyTxuWo9S pic.twitter.com/e8YRJik9rP
And of course, it wouldn't be a vote on a series of controversial amendments without a little bit of drama on the floor:
Uproar in Commons on Tory benches as John Bercow issues a waspish rebuke to Greg Hands saying that 'he wasn't a very good whip'— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) March 25, 2019
Sir Patrick McLoughlin, a former chief whip, accuses John Bercow of failing to treat Greg Hands with respect.— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) March 25, 2019
John Bercow says: 'I am very happy to apologise to the Rt Hon Gentleman. It doesn't cause me any difficulty whatsoever'
As the government grapples with the fallout from tonight's vote, the big question, moving forward, is if the increasingly anxious Brexiteers will finally relent and accept May's offer to resign in exchange for passing the withdrawal agreement to try and head off a pivot toward a softer Brexit - or a lengthy delay. Of course, it's worth remembering that the EU has said negotiations are over, and even if MPs did rally behind a soft Brexit, there's no guarantee the EU would support it.