Prime Minister Theresa May offered yesterday to quit in a bid to get her Brexit divorce deal passed, but the Northern Irish party crucial to getting the agreement through parliament was unmoved and said it would reject it again.
If the Democratic Unionist Party had swung behind Mrs May, it might have convinced many eurosceptic rebels within the Conservative party to back her deal, but the DUP’s move made it highly unlikely it would get through at a third attempt.
The DUP’s decision now puts pressure on parliament to come up with a plan to prevent a “no-deal” Brexit on April 12, the new deadline set by Brussels last week.
“We will not be supporting the government if they table a fresh meaningful vote,” the DUP said in a statement. Deputy party leader Nigel Dodds made clear in a tweet that this meant they would be voting against.
Mrs May’s departure would not alter the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, but it could give Conservative eurosceptics who have opposed it a greater say in negotiating the terms of Britain’s future relationship with the EU.
“I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party,” Mrs May told a meeting of Conservative MPs.
“I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and I won’t stand in the way of that.”
Mrs May was speaking as MPs debated eight Brexit options ranging from leaving abruptly with no deal to revoking the divorce or holding a new referendum.
MPs had voted on Monday to grab control of the Brexit process for a day in a bid to break the impasse. Several options would see much closer alignment with the EU than Mrs May envisages, including staying in the single market or a customs union.
In the “indicative vote”, MPs were able to support as many proposals as they wished.
But none of the proposals produced a majority, although the narrowest defeat, by just eight votes, was for a proposal to keep Britain in a permanent customs union with the EU.
MPs also voted overwhelmingly against a proposal to leave the EU without a deal, defeating it by 400 votes against to 160 in favour.
There was also significant support for a proposal calling for Brexit to be revoked, but it was still defeated by 293 votes to 184.
A call for a second confirmatory public vote – the so-called second referendum – was defeated by 295 votes to 268.
In Gibraltar, the reactions to the latest developments were cautious given the fractured political landscape and the continued uncertainty of the final outcome of Brexit.
“I am pleased to see the resounding support to avoid a no deal Brexit and the growing support for a revocation and a further referendum or the Withdrawal Agreement,” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.
“The options are narrowing and the eventualities which now remain probable are ones for which we have well laid plans.”
“It is nonetheless remarkable that each day we are seeing history made in the House of Commons but we have no fixed view yet of what history will determine should be the final outcome of the Brexit genie that David Cameron inflicted on us all.”
“We remain ready to deal with any of the now probable outcomes that might materialise and to steer Gibraltar safely through them.”
Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the GSD, said the outcome of the indicative votes in London underscored the divisions in the UK Parliament on Brexit, adding that these were reflective of divisions in the wider electorate.
“Even so this had been predicted as a two stage process and the strongest showing of the people’s vote motion raises the hope that there will be a recognition that this question that divides the Parliament and the British nations will be put back to the people,” he said.
“In the meantime of course it is likely there will be an attempt, maybe tomorrow, to put Mrs May’s bad deal back to Parliament for a third time.”
“The Withdrawal Agreement remains a bad deal for the UK and Gibraltar.”
“The only thing that has changed since it was last rejected is that Mrs May has announced she will stand down.”
“But internal politics of the Conservative Party should not shamelessly provide an antidote to this bad deal.”
“The GSD remain hopeful that a better option will emerge that is more protective of Gibraltar’s interests and allows the people to decide on the way ahead.”
Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon, who leads the Together Gibraltar party, also said it was time to take Brexit back to the people in order to break the political impasse in Westminster.
“While the lure of a set of indicative votes seemed attractive, today’s events have shown that Parliament is no more ‘in control’ of the Brexit process than the Prime Minister or the government,” said
“If the politicians cannot decide what to do, the only clear way forward now is to take this to the people for a public vote.”
“That is the genuinely democratic way forward.”
MAIN PHOTO: Victoria Jones/PA Wire