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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 …

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.

Letter(s) from Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker to Theresa May

Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker wrote a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May on 14 January 2019 to clarify various details in the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU in an attempt to help the agreed deal throught the UK Parliament.

Details at


(Local copy HERE)

The letter in full follows:

Thank you for your letter of 14 January 2019.

As you are well aware, we regret but respect the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. We also consider that Brexit is a source of uncertainty and disruption. In these challenging times, we therefore share with you the determination to create as much certainty and clarity as possible for citizens and companies in a situation where a Member State leaves the European Union after more than four decades of closest economic and political integration. That is why the Withdrawal Agreement that you and the Leaders of the 27 EU Member States agreed after long negotiations is so important. It represents a fair compromise and aims to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, thereby limiting the negative consequences of Brexit. That is also why we wish to establish as close as possible a relationship with the United Kingdom in the future, building on the Political Declaration, which the Leaders of the 27 EU Member States agreed with you. It is also why we want negotiations to this effect to start as soon as possible after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

As you know, we are not in a position to agree to anything that changes or is inconsistent with the Withdrawal Agreement, but against this background, and in order to facilitate the next steps of the process, we are happy to confirm, on behalf of the two EU Institutions we represent, our understanding of the following points within our respective fields of responsibility.

PM’s Brexit speech in Stoke-on-Trent: 14 January 2019

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Prime Minister Theresa May gave a speech on Brexit in Stoke-on-Trent on 14 January 2019.

Tomorrow, Members of Parliament will cast their votes on the Withdrawal Agreement on the terms of our departure from the European Union and the Political Declaration on our future relationship. That vote in Westminster is a direct consequence of the votes that were cast by people here in Stoke, and in cities, towns and villages in every corner of the United Kingdom.

In June 2016, the British people were asked by MPs to take a decision: should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or should we leave? In that campaign, both sides disagreed on many things, but on one thing they were united: what the British people decided, the politicians would implement. In the run-up to the vote, the government sent a leaflet to every household making the case for remain. It stated very clearly: ‘This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.’

Those were the terms on which people cast their votes. If a majority had backed remain, the UK would have continued as an EU member state. No doubt the disagreements would have continued too, but the vast majority of people would have had no truck with an argument that we should leave the EU in spite of a vote to remain or that we should return to the question in another referendum.

On the rare occasions when Parliament puts a question to the British people directly we have always understood that their response carries a profound significance. When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly, that result was accepted by Parliament.

Indeed we have never had a referendum in the United Kingdom that we have not honoured the result of. Parliament understood this fact when it voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50. And both major parties did so too when they stood on election manifestos in 2017 that pledged to honour the result of the referendum. Yet, as we have seen over the last few weeks, there are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so. I ask them to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy.