Date
22 September 2019
Theresa May makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street in London on Wednesday after winning a confidence vote in parliament. Photo: Reuters
Theresa May makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street in London on Wednesday after winning a confidence vote in parliament. Photo: Reuters

Theresa May wins confidence vote; seeks end to Brexit impasse

British Prime Minister Theresa May won a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday and then appealed to lawmakers from across the political divide to come together to try to break the impasse on a Brexit divorce agreement.

MPs voted 325 to 306 that they had confidence in May’s government, just 24 hours after handing her European Union withdrawal deal a crushing defeat that left Britain’s exit from the bloc in disarray, Reuters reports.

After the results of the confidence vote were announced to cheers from her Conservative MPs, May said she believes parliament has a duty to find a solution that delivered on the 2016 Brexit referendum result.

But with lawmakers (MPs) deadlocked on the way forward, the UK could face a disorderly “no-deal” Brexit, a delay to Brexit, or even another referendum on membership, the report noted.

“Now MPs have made clear what they don’t want, we must all work constructively together to set out what parliament does want,” May said in a statement outside her Downing Street office.

“That’s why I am inviting MPs from all parties to come together to find a way forward. This is now the time to put self-interest aside.”

After the confidence vote, May met several party leaders, but the main opposition leader, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, refused to hold talks unless a no-deal Brexit was ruled out.

With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Brexit, the UK is now in the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the European project it joined in 1973.

The votes on Tuesday and Wednesday brought into sharp relief the problem May faces; trying to win over pro-EU supporters in her own and other parties without alienating those who keep her in power – for instance, by giving up the “no-deal Brexit” that they see as a crucial bargaining chip.

Hardline Conservative Brexit-supporters, who last month made an unsuccessful attempt to oust her as leader, and the Northern Irish party that props up her minority government will not countenance a deal that keeps close ties with the EU.

“The confidence and supply arrangement (to support May) of course is built upon delivering Brexit on the basis of our shared priorities,” said Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.

However, Corbyn said no positive talks were possible unless a no-deal Brexit was taken off the table. His party wants a permanent customs union with the EU, a close relationship with its single market and greater protections for workers and consumers.

May’s spokesman said she was not ruling out a no-deal option and that it was government policy to be outside an EU customs union. Critics said this meant May was not budging from the deal that had alienated all sides in parliament.

Other opposition parties wrote to Corbyn after the confidence vote to demand he now back a second referendum, which Labour has agreed should be considered if it cannot force an election.

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