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Theresa May’s Conservative Party have suffered the ignominy of becoming the first ruling party to be defeated on a Finance Bill vote in 41 years after an amendment tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper to hand MPs more powers to prevent a No Deal Brexit was narrowly voted through by MPs.
Cooper’s amendment passed by a slim margin 7, gaining 303 votes for and 296 against, and means that the government will now be accountable to MPs if it wishes to implement a No Deal Brexit.
Cooper previously said that her amendment would make it ‘harder for the government to drift into no deal without Parliament being able to direct it‘, and writing in The Guardian yesterday, the former Labour frontbencher and current Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee explained that:
“The amendment would mean that if the government wanted to use some of the specific powers in the finance bill to implement no deal, it would have to give parliament a vote first or apply to extend article 50. The amendment doesn’t affect the normal operations of the Treasury and government. But it does make it harder for the government to drift into no deal without parliament being able to direct it.”
Such is the huge importance of the amendment to protect against a No Deal Brexit, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – who stood against Ms Cooper in the 2015 Labour leadership election – was seen to turn around and applaud Ms Cooper in the House of Commons following the passing of the amendment.
Jeremy Corbyn turns round and applauds Yvette Cooper in the chamber, and gives her a big thumbs up after her amendment on stopping a no deal Brexit is passed on the Government’s Finance Bill by 303 votes to 297
— Alain Tolhurst (@Alain_Tolhurst) January 8, 2019
Votes on Finance Bills are traditionally seen as ‘motions of confidence’, and the government’s defeat today is a historic moment, with the Tories becoming the first ruling party in a staggering 41 years to be defeated on such a vote.
Government DEFEATED over Cooper amendment to finance bill limiting no-deal powers.
Historic moment – represents first time in 41 years Govt has been lost vote on finance bill
— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) January 8, 2019
Responding to the government’s defeat, Jeremy Corbyn wrote on Twitter that the vote was “an important step to prevent a no deal Brexit”, adding that:
“It shows that there is no majority in Parliament, the Cabinet or the country for crashing out of the EU without an agreement.
That is why we are taking every opportunity possible in Parliament to prevent no deal. Theresa May must now rule out no deal once and for all.”
Whilst Yvette Cooper responded to the victory by writing:
“Very glad that the Commons has voted to support
#Amendment7 Shows the determination in Parliament to come together to prevent a chaotic & damaging #NoDeal that would hit manufacturing, policing & security”
Very glad that the Commons has voted to support #Amendment7 Shows the determination in Parliament to come together to prevent a chaotic & damaging #NoDeal that would hit manufacturing, policing & security
— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) January 8, 2019
Twenty Tory MPs, including six former Cabinet members and eleven former Ministers, rebelled against their own party to vote for the amendment, whilst only three pro-Brexit Labour MPs voted alongside the Tories to try and vote it down.
The Tory MPs who voted for the amendment were Heidi Allen, Guto Bebb, Richard Benyon, Nick Boles, Ken Clarke, Jonathan Djangoly, Dominic Grieve, Justine Greening, George Freeman, Michael Fallon, Sam Gyimah, Dr Phillip Lee, Oliver Letwin, Nicky Morgan, Robert Neil, Nicholas Soames, Anna Soubry, Edward Vaizey, and Sarah Woolastan.
The Labour MPs who voted with the Tories were Ronnie Campbell, Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer.
The historic vote shows that a majority of MPs oppose a No Deal Brexit, and will come as a huge blow to those on the hard right of the Conservative Party, many of whom favour leaving the European Union without a deal.
Opposition MPs are also said to be planning similar amendments to other crucial government legislation, such as the Trade Bill, and legislation on Fisheries and on Healthcare, to ensure that the only way for the government to take the UK out of the EU without a deal would be with the expressed consent of a majority of MPs.