Brexit news: Conservative MPs given free vote on no-deal tomorrow after May's second attempt ends in abject humiliation

Lizzy Buchan
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Did your MP vote for or against Theresa May's Brexit deal?

Did your MP vote for or against Theresa May's Brexit deal?

Theresa May has promised to grant Conservative MPs a free vote during a critical Commons clash on whether to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

In the wake of the devastating defeat of her Brexit deal, the prime minister announced that Tory MPs would not be whipped, in an attempt to avoid a potential flurry of resignations from her own benches.

Ms May reaffirmed her commitment to give MPs a vote on Wednesday on whether they are willing to leaving the EU without a deal, followed by a vote on delaying Brexit on Thursday.

It comes after a day of high drama in Westminster, where MPs defeated Ms May’s Brexit deal for the second time by 149 votes, despite last-minute assurances from the EU over the divisive Irish backstop.

Moments after the vote, an exhausted and hoarse prime minister said she “profoundly regrets” the decision taken by the house but would stand by her promise to allow extra votes.

She said: “This is an issue of grave importance for the future of our country. Just like the referendum, there are strongly held and equally legitimate views on both sides.

“For that reason, I can confirm that this will be a free vote on this side of the house.”

Ms May said she had “personally struggled with this choice” but the best way to leave the EU was “in an orderly way” with a deal.

She confirmed that the motion would say parliament “declines to approve leaving the European Union” without a Brexit deal on 29 March, and “notes that leaving without a deal remains the default in UK and EU law unless this house and the EU ratify an agreement”.

If MPs reject a no deal, as many expect, the third vote will follow on Thursday on whether to authorise Ms May to demand an extension of the two-year Article 50 process.

Labour accused her of putting party management above the public interest by allowing her MPs the freedom to back a no-deal exit.

A Labour spokesperson said: “Allowing a free vote on no deal shows Theresa May has given up any pretence of leading the country.

“Once again, she’s putting her party’s interests ahead of the public interest.”

It comes as the prime minister’s Brexit strategy was dealt a devastating blow by MPs, who voted by 391 to 242 against the deal, despite an eleventh-hour assurance from European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in Strasbourg that the UK cannot be trapped in the controversial backstop arrangement indefinitely.

Although tonight’s defeat was a reduction on the record 230-vote loss in the first meaningful vote in January, Ms May is running out of time to find a solution with just 17 days to go until Brexit day.