UK Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that the Brexit vote has been postponed, blaming the issue of the Irish backstop for the decision, and committing to return to the EU to rework this aspect of the agreement.
“If we went ahead and held the vote the deal would be rejected,” she said, arguing that she had received support on other issues in the vote, to roars of laughter from the chamber.
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The vote on the withdrawal agreement had been set to be held tomorrow. It is yet not clear when it will now take place.
She said that although it was not possible to agree a version of Brexit that did not include the backstop, she argued that it was possible to put the deal in place in a way that did not harm Northern Irish citizens.
“We do not their everyday lives to change as a result of the decision we have taken,” she said.
She also stressed that the Backstop would now apply to the whole of the UK, making it an unappealing option for the EU to enforce for any significant period. However she said that she would work on this aspect with the EU to refine the issue before putting it to a vote.
“That is what my focus will be in the days ahead,” she said.
Brexit vote postponed: May turns tables on MPs
However, she also challenged the assembled MPs, stressing the reality of the situation they were faced with.
“It is clear this house faces a more fundamental question: Does this house want to deliver Brexit?” she asked.
“If this house does, does it want to do this by delivering an agreement with the EU? If it does we need to all be prepared to make a compromise.”
This included a jab at those calling for a People’s Vote.
“If you want a second referendum, be honest that this risks dividing the country again when as a house we should be focused on bringing it together.”
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Growing calls for no-confidence vote in Theresa May
The announcement has resulted in growing calls for a no-confidence vote in Theresa May, both from opposition MPs and MPs from her own party.
This was alluded to by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn in response to May’s announcement, although he stopped short of calling for a no-confidence vote.
“If the Prime Minister cannot confirm she can renegotiate a deal then she must make way,” said Corbyn.
There were also concerns from May’s own party.
“I am glad that the government has abandoned trying to push this Brexit withdrawal agreement through,” said Marcus Fysh, Conservative MP for Yeovil, in an interview with the BBC. “I think that many will question if she is the right person to do this. To have got us into this situation is, in my opinion, unforgivable.”
“I can’t see how you could not define this as the most humiliating moment for a British Prime Minister in modern political history,” Labour MP for Aberavon Stephen Kinnock told the BBC prior to the official confirmation, adding that his party should call for a motion of no-confidence not only in the Prime Minister, but the Tory government.