'Nightmare' for Theresa May After Brexit Deal Rejected

She faces crucial vote after historic defeat
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2019 6:08 AM CST
Updated Jan 16, 2019 6:48 AM CST
'Nightmare' for Theresa May After Brexit Deal Rejected
In this grab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May listens to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking after losing a vote on her Brexit deal, in the House of Commons, London, Tuesday Jan. 15, 2019. .   (House of Commons/PA via AP)

In chess, to be "in zugzwang" is to be in a position where every possible move will worsen the situation—and some analysts see it as a fitting analogy for the position Theresa May and her government are in after Tuesday's historic Brexit defeat. After delaying a vote on her Brexit deal to try to get more support, the prime minister still suffered the worst defeat for a sitting government in modern British history, with the deal rejected by a 432 to 202 vote. Some 118 MPs from May's Conservative Party voted against the deal. With a March 29 deadline for the UK to leave the European Union looming, May has promised cross-party talks to find a way forward—but she will first have to survive a Wednesday no-confidence vote called by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. More:

  • A "nightmare" for May. While the numbers are worse for May than expected, her "dilemma is a more serious version of the same it's always been," says BBC correspondent Laura Keunssberg. She doesn't have the majority to push her middle way on Brexit through, and "her many critics don't agree on the direction she should take—a more dramatic break with the EU, or a tighter, softer version. Those two fundamental and clashing positions have always threatened to pull her and the government apart."

  • What happens now? The New York Times uses flow charts to look at the possibilities, including a second referendum, a general election, a Brexit delay, seeking a new deal from the EU, or crashing out of the EU with no deal, a "nuclear option" seen as unlikely but no longer inconceivable.
  • The no-confidence vote. The Guardian looks at how Wednesday's vote—the first of its kind since a 2011 law removed prime ministers' ability to call elections at the time of their choosing—will work. If the motion passes there will be a 14-day period in which a new government can be formed or an existing one can "regain the confidence of MPs." After that, parliament will be dissolved and an election will be held after 25 working days. Conservative MPs, however, including those who rejected the deal, have pledged to support May in the vote.
  • A plea from Europe. After witnessing Tuesday's chaos in Britain's Parliament, European lawmakers pleaded with the country to get its act together before the March 29 deadline. "The only lesson for them is that they need to sit around one table, opposition and majority to sort out what is in the national interest," Guy Verhofstadt, the chief Brexit official in the EU parliament, tells the AP.

  • "Let's call the whole thing off." European Council President Donald Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland, suggested Tuesday night that simply calling off Brexit was Britain's only realistic option, CNBC reports. "If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?" he tweeted.
  • "Let's not." Andrea Leadsom, the Conservative leader of the House of Commons, insisted early Wednesday that the government would neither revoke nor delay Article 50, which gave the government two years to come up with a Brexit deal when it was invoked on March 29, 2017, the Telegraph reports. 'We are determined to deliver on Brexit on March 29 which is what a vast majority of Parliamentarians voted for in triggering Article 50," she said.
  • No winners. While Tuesday's vote was a crushing loss for May, analysts say there were no corresponding winners—apart from those who sought disruption. And whatever happens in the next few days, the shape of Brexit is likely to remain unknown for some time. "We stand here as confused and as uncertain about the future as we were a week ago, as we were a month ago, and really as we were when the result came in," Joe Twyman of the polling firm Deltapoll tells the CBC.
(Read more Brexit stories.)

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