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Theresa May Statement to Parliament after the Meaningful Vote

A copy of Prime Minister Theresa May’s statement to the House of Commons following the Meaningful Vote on 15 January 2019.


Mr Speaker, the House has spoken and the Government will listen.

It is clear that the House does not support this deal. But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support. Nothing about how, or even if, it intends to honour the decision the British people took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold.

People, particularly EU citizens who have made their home here and UK citizens living in the EU, deserve clarity on these questions as soon as possible. Those whose jobs rely on our trade with the EU need that clarity. So with your permission Mr Speaker I would like to set out briefly how the Government intends to proceed.

First, we need to confirm whether this Government still enjoys the confidence of the House. I believe that it does, but given the scale and importance of tonight’s vote it is right that others have the chance to test that question if they wish to do so. I can therefore confirm that if the Official Opposition table a confidence motion this evening in the form required by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, the Government will make time to debate that motion tomorrow. And if, as happened before Christmas, the Official Opposition decline to do so, we will, on this occasion, consider making time tomorrow to debate any motion in the form required from the other opposition parties, should they put one forward.

Second, if the House confirms its confidence in this Government I will then hold meetings with my colleagues, our Confidence & Supply partner the DUP and senior Parliamentarians from across the House to identify what would be required to secure the backing of the House. The Government will approach these meetings in a constructive spirit, but given the urgent need to make progress, we must focus on ideas that are genuinely negotiable and have sufficient support in this House. Third, if these meetings yield such ideas, the Government will then explore them with the European Union.

Mr Speaker I want to end by offering two reassurances.

The first is to those who fear that the Government’s strategy is to run down the clock to 29th March. That is not our strategy. I have always believed that the best way forward is to leave in an orderly way with a good deal and have devoted much of the last two years negotiating such a deal. As you confirmed Mr Speaker, the amendment to the business motion tabled last week by my Right Honourable and Learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield is not legally binding, but the Government respects the will of the House. We will therefore make a statement about the way forward and table an amendable motion by Monday.

The second reassurance is to the British people, who voted to leave the European Union in the referendum two and a half years ago. I became Prime Minister immediately after that referendum. I believe it is my duty to deliver on their instruction and I intend to do so.

Mr Speaker every day that passes without this issue being resolved means more uncertainty, more bitterness and more rancour. The Government has heard what the House has said tonight, but I ask Members on all sides of the House to listen to the British people, who want this issue settled, and to work with the Government to do just that.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act – The Meaningful Vote

The final day of debate on the Meaningful Vote was held on 15 January 2019.

As a reminder, the motion being debated is:

That this House approves for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title “Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community” and the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title “Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom”.

In addition, the Speaker has selected a number of amendments to include as follows

(a), in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn;

(k), in the name of the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford);

(b), in the name of the right hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh);

(f), in the name of the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron).

If amendment (b) is agreed to, amendment (f) falls

The amendments will be put to a vote before the main vote takes place which is scheduled for around 7:00pm – the only amendment which actually put to a vote was (f)

Amendment proposed: (f): at end, add

“subject to changes being made in the Withdrawal Agreement and in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol so that the UK has the right to terminate the Protocol without having to secure the agreement of the EU.”

which was defeated by 24 votes in favour and 600 against.

The Meaningful Vote then followed, on the deal agreed between the Prime Minister and the EU, the result being 202 votes in favour and 432 against the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Political Declaration, resulting in a defeat for the Government. In fact this result is the worst for any Government since the 1920s with a majority of 230 against the Government. In total 118 Conservative and 18 DUP MPs voted against the Government.

Following the defeat Theresa May stated:

…I can therefore confirm that if the official Opposition table a confidence motion this evening in the form required by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, the Government will make time to debate that motion tomorrow. If, as happened before Christmas, the official Opposition decline to do so, we will on this occasion consider making time tomorrow to debate any motion in the form required from the other Opposition parties should they put one forward …

This was followed by Jeremy Corbyn

…I therefore inform you, Mr Speaker, that I have now tabled a motion of no confidence in this Government, and I am pleased that that motion will be debated tomorrow so that this House can give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this Government and pass that motion of no confidence in the Government….

So the next step is for Parliament to spend time debating and ultimately voting on a Vote of Confidence in the Government – this is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 16 January 2019. It is highly likely that the Government will defeat the motion with rebel MP’s, both those in favour of Brexit and anti-Brexit Conservateive MPs, together with DUP MPs voting against the motion.

If the Governmment defeats the motion, Theresa May has committed to return to Parliament within 3 “sitting” days to present a new Brexit plan as the current proposal has been voted down. This should happen, at the latest, by Monday 21 January 2019.

So what next …

UK Government commitments to NI

The UK Government published a paper that outlines UK Government commitments to Northern Ireland and its integral place in the United Kingdom. It describes a package of measures to give Northern Ireland a strong voice and role in the backstop process including a new Stormont lock to give Northern Ireland the power to reject new EU laws and regulation in the backstop.

Available at

NI Unilateral Commitments


Attorney General to PM on the NI Protocol, 14 January 2019

Publication of a letter from the Attorney General to the Prime Minister on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Attorney General wrote to the Prime Minister regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol in response to the letters exchanged between the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the European Commission and Council setting out assurances and clarifications with regard to the Northern Ireland backstop.

PM statement to the House of Commons: 14 January 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May’s statement in the House of Commons on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on 14 January 2019

This is the Statement in full:

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on the further assurances and clarifications we have received from the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

As a proud Unionist, I share the concerns of Members who want to ensure that in leaving the European Union we do not undermine the strength of our own union in the UK. That is why when the EU tried to insist on a Protocol that would carve out Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK’s customs territory, I said no. And I secured instead a UK-wide temporary customs arrangement – avoiding both a hard border on the island of Ireland and a customs border down the Irish Sea. I also negotiated substantial commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration to do everything possible to prevent the backstop ever being needed – and to ensure that if it were, it would be a temporary arrangement.

But listening to the debate before Christmas it was clear that we needed to go further. So I returned to Brussels to faithfully and firmly reflect the concerns of this House.

The conclusions of December’s Council went further in addressing our concerns.

They included reaffirming the EU’s determination to work speedily to establish by 31st December 2020 alternative arrangements so that the backstop will not need to be triggered. They underlined that if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered it would indeed apply temporarily. They committed that in such an event, the EU would use their best endeavours to continue to negotiate and conclude as soon as possible a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop. And they gave a new assurance that negotiations on the Future Relationship could start immediately after the UK’s withdrawal.

Since the Council and throughout the Christmas and New Year period I have spoken to a number of European leaders and there have been further discussions with the EU to seek further assurances alongside the Council conclusions. And today I have published the outcome of these further discussions with an exchange of letters between the UK Government and the Presidents of the European Commission and European Council.

The letter from President Tusk confirms what I said in the House before Christmas – namely that the assurances in the European Council conclusions have legal standing in the EU.