We’re on Course to Deliver Brexit Despite Vote – Theresa May
Theresa May has said the UK is “on course to deliver on Brexit” as she arrived in Brussels, the day after her first Commons defeat as prime minister.
She said she was “disappointed” at the vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill, but the legislation was making “good progress”.
MPs backed an amendment giving them a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels.
Mrs May has arrived at a summit where other EU states could decide to move forward to trade talks with the UK.
She told reporters they would be talking about “the ambitious and deep and special partnership” she wanted to build between the UK and EU, after Brexit.
“I’m disappointed with the amendment but actually the EU Withdrawal Bill is making good progress through the House of Commons and we are on course to deliver Brexit,” said Mrs May.
Asked whether she felt she would have to compromise more to win over rebels from her own party, she told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg: “We’ve actually had 36 votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill, and we’ve won 35 of those votes with an average majority of 22.”
Mrs May lost by just four votes, as MPs backed an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill by 309 to 305.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was a “humiliating loss of authority” for the prime minister.
It will not derail Brexit but MPs who voted against the government hope it will give them a bigger say in the final deal Theresa May strikes with Brussels.
BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming said that as other EU leaders also run minority or coalition governments they would see the vote defeat as a small-scale domestic political issue.
One of Wednesday’s rebel Conservative MPs, Stephen Hammond, was sacked by the prime minister as a party vice chairman in the aftermath of the vote.
The government had promised a “meaningful vote” for MPs on the final Brexit deal, but this defeat means that promise now has legal force and must happen before any UK-EU deal is implemented in the UK.
Ministers had resisted this move because they wanted the ability to start implementing any deal as soon as it was agreed – in case, for instance, it was only agreed at the last minute.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said it would embolden the opposition and showed there was a majority in Parliament against a “hard Brexit”.
Cabinet Minister Jeremy Hunt told BBC Radio 4 the vote was “not going to stop Brexit”.
Asked whether it meant MPs would have the power to force the government back to the negotiating table if they did not like whatever Brexit deal is negotiated, he said: “Parliament can say whatever it wants but of course renegotiation is something that involves two parties.”