Theresa May has suffered a humiliating defeat on Wednesday, after 11 of her own backbenchers introduced an amendment to her government’s Brexit bill.
The so-called EU withdrawal bill (or Brexit bill) “nationalizes” EU legislation introduced since 1972. The purpose of the law is to provide continuity after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
Backed by Labour opposition, the Conservative backbenchers introduced an amendment that will require any future Brexit deal to be approved by the House of Commons.
The eight Conservative rebels are Dominic Grieve, Heidi Allen, Ken Clarke, Jonathan Djanogly, Stephen Hammond, Sir Oliver Heald, Nicky Morgan, Bob Neill, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston. Eight of those rebels are former ministers.
Theresa May argued that this amendment will endanger the UK’s exit from the European Union. For hardline members of government this would make the possibility of a “no deal” scenario impracticable, since ministers would have to have the approval of parliament.
However, the British Prime Minister lost that argument by 309 to 305 in a 650-seat parliament. The argument was won by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who is considered responsible for leading the revolt.
The former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan hailed the amendment as a step to the parliament was “tacking back control” of the Brexit process. Prominent Leave campaigners were furious and were calling for the deselection of the 11 backbenchers.
Two Labour MPs voted with the government.
May’s parliamentary defeat is hardly unexpected. In May 2017 the British Prime Minister took advantage of a 25% lead on the polls to call a snap election. But, when Britons went to the polls six weeks later, her lead had been reduced to 2,4% and she had lost 13 MPs. As a result, Mrs. May found her government dependent on the far-right Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for her majority in parliament.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the defeat was “a humiliating loss of authority” for the Prime Minister.