What happens if Theresa May loses the Brexit 'meaningful vote'?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·Contributor
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
MPs are debating Theresa May’s Brexit deal this week. (Anthony Devlin/AFP/Getty Images)
MPs are debating Theresa May’s Brexit deal this week. (Anthony Devlin/AFP/Getty Images)

MPs are preparing to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal today.

However, deep divides continue to split MPs across the House of Commons, with some pushing for a no-deal Brexit while other, pro-Remain politicians are campaigning to reverse the outcome with a second referendum.

A potential ‘coup’ which could overhaul parliamentary procedure has also been mooted.

200 politicians from both sides of the Brexit debate signed a letter in a bid to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal. Brexiteers including Boris Johnson are vocal in their belief that no deal is better than the Prime Minister’s deal.

But Mrs May is about against it and she is widely expected to be handed a crushing defeat by MPs. If she is there are a number of different outcomes that might follow.

The EU and Union flags flying outside Parliament in Westminster, London. Theresa May will intensify efforts to win over her Brexit critics and seek fresh guarantees from Brussels ahead of next week’s crunch vote on her deal.
The EU and Union flags flying outside Parliament in Westminster, London. Theresa May will intensify efforts to win over her Brexit critics and seek fresh guarantees from Brussels ahead of next week’s crunch vote on her deal.

Theresa May goes back to Brussels

The EU has said it will not renegotiate Mrs May’s deal any further and will not alter the backstop arrangement to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland – the element that many Brexiteers take issue with.

Mrs May spent Christmas lobbying her fellow leaders to no avail and patience is said to have long run out for discussions between the PM and EU president Jean-Claude Juncker.

A letter from Mr Juncker to the PM on Monday was described as offering ‘clarifications’ and it stressed neither he, nor Donald Tusk, could rewrite or amend Mrs May’s deal making such a return unlikely to bear fruit.

However, the EU may relent at the last minute if faced with a calamitous no deal scenario.

Labour tries to bring down the Government

Labour has already threatened a vote of no confidence in the Government, and in the event of a Commons defeat the opposition would be more likely to move against the weakened Conservatives.

A successful no confidence vote would trigger a General Election.

In order for the no confidence motion to pass, a number of Conservative MPs would have to vote against their own Government – which is not impossible.

It could be that Brexiteers would try and bring down the current incumbent in order to install a Eurosceptic party leader and fight an election without May at the helm.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

However, Labour’s own Brexit policy is increasingly mired in uncertainty with Jeremy Corbyn under increasing pressure to back a second referendum in the event the Government’s Brexit deal cannot drum up enough support.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that a no confidence motion against Theresa May was “not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

He has said “the call” would be made after the meaningful vote and followed by an announcement by Mr Corbyn.

Backbench MPs stage a ‘coup’

Nick Boles, Sir Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan are to publish a bill which would see the Liaison Committee take a key role if the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement is rejected by Parliament.

Mr Boles said all three planned to vote for the PM’s deal but would act if it failed.

The bill would give Government three more weeks to get a compromised ‘plan B’ through parliament so the UK sticks to the March 29 date.

Mr Boles told Radio 4’s Today programme: “If that failed, it would then ask the Liaison Committee, which is the committee of all the chairs of select committees and other parliamentary committees, it would give the Liaison Committee the responsibility to try and come up with its own compromise deal, which would have to go back to the House for a vote. If the House passed that compromise deal, then the Government would be legally required to implement whatever it was that they had.”

Government calls a general election

Should Mrs May fail there is a slight chance a general election could be called by the PM herself.

This, in theory, could help strengthen the Conservative’s grip on government with newly elected MPs potentially helping to strengthen Mrs May’s deal in the event of a further vote.

However, last time Mrs May took this route it failed to give her the boost she had hoped for.

Among the possible outcomes of a Commons defeat for Mrs May’s deal could be a general election. One way or another. Stock image. (PA)
Among the possible outcomes of a Commons defeat for Mrs May’s deal could be a general election. One way or another. Stock image. (PA)

The PM steps down

Mrs May has already survived a vote of no confidence from her own party and has vowed not to step aside.

However, a defeat would bring further humiliation off the back of growing divides and might convince her to re-evaluate her position.

No deal becomes official policy

A no deal Brexit has been used as a stick to try and encourage MPs to back Mrs May’s deal.

Pro-Leave Michael Gove has warned this could lead to food shortages and more than 200 MPs on both sides of the debate have signed a letter urging Mrs May not to go down this route.

But Mrs May has said without her deal the UK faces ‘uncharted territory’ of a no deal route, and at present there are no alternative proposals in place.


Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting