Theresa May is expected to rebuff Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a vote of no confidence as government sources accused him of ‘silly political games’.
The Labour leader’s move is not a vote of no confidence in the Government as a whole, but one in the Prime Minister herself, meaning Mrs May can ignore it without allowing a debate or a vote on it.
She walked out of the House of Commons today moments after the Leader of the Opposition made the suggestion.
Number 10 sources have now told the BBC that the government will not allow the no-confidence vote.
They said that ministers would not ‘go along with silly political games’ after the SNP also slammed Mr Corbyn’s attempt as ‘pathetic’.
Mrs May (pictured, right) is expected to rebuff the demand for a vote of confidence after the Labour leader (left) floated the idea in the Commons today
Earlier today Theresa May was seen leaving the House of Commons moments after the vote was suggested
The Labour leader has been slammed by both sides after the Tories accused him of ‘silly political’ games and the SNP said his attempt didn’t go far enough
Labour had hoped to build enough political pressure to embarrass her into it after she rescheduled a vote on her Brexit deal for mid-January.
A spokesman said: ‘If she refuses, it is clear that she does not believe she retains the confidence of this House.’
The scheme appeared doomed shortly after it was suggested as Brexiteer rebels said they would back Mrs May.
The SNP condemned Mr Corbyn for the ‘pathetic political cynicism’ and insisted he get on with calling a proper vote of no confidence – something only he has full power to do as Leader of the Opposition.
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured today in the Commons) abandoned an attempt to call a stunt vote of no confidence in Theresa May in less than an hour today
After the stunt collapsed, SNP MP Stewart McDonald said: ‘The idea that Corbyn has forced anything is, bluntly, trash talk’
Tory Greg Hands joined in the ridicule of Mr Corbyn, warning he had ‘I have no confidence in Labour’s ability to table a No Confidence motion’
Labour chief whip Nick Brown promised his MPs tonight Labour was still ready to table a full-blown no confidence vote in the Government at the right time.
Brexiteer Steve Baker dismissed the Labour stunt, saying: ‘Eurosceptic Conservatives are clear that we accept the democratic decision of our Party to have confidence in Theresa May as PM.
What is Corbyn trying to do and why will it not trigger an election
What is Jeremy Corbyn proposing?
Jeremy Corbyn has said there should be a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister if she does not set a date for a vote on her Brexit deal.
Can this force her to resign?
Not automatically – but a confidence vote against the PM would be very damaging and lead to calls for Theresa May to quit.
Can it force an election?
No. A motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister is not the same as one in the whole Government. Only the second version is enough under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to start a countdown to the election.
Why is Corbyn doing this?
Mr Corbyn wants the vote on Brexit deal before he tries to do a full-blown confidence vote. He believes Mrs May will lose a vote on her deal and that will make her more vulnerable to a proper confidence motion.
Will Corbyn’s vote happen?
It depends. Labour can call debates on whatever it likes on Opposition Days – usually Wednesdays. But is has no more time this year to call debates.
Labour will insist the Government should make time to have this debate and vote – but Parliamentary rules suggest ministers can just ignore it.
‘We will vote against Labour in any confidence motion.’
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said Mr Corbyn was ‘bottling a real confidence vote’.
SNP MP Stewart McDonald said: ‘The idea that Corbyn has forced anything is, bluntly, trash talk.
‘It’s a clumsy and risible attempt at trying to be seen to be doing something when in truth he is doing nothing more than fiddling while Rome burns.’
Neil Gray added: ‘Pathetic political cynicism trumps real opposition for Labour.’
Tory Greg Hands joined in the ridicule of Mr Corbyn, warning he had ‘I have no confidence in Labour’s ability to table a No Confidence motion’.
Losing a vote declaring there is no confidence in Mrs May would be acutely embarrassing and would provoke calls for her to resign.
But crucially the motion Mr Corbyn considered would not be binding and would not start a 14-day countdown to an early election.
That can only happen if a formal vote of no confidence in the entire Government is tabled under the laws in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.
Parliamentary rules suggest Mr Corbyn’s motion would not have forced the Government into allowing time for a debate or vote – meaning Mr Corbyn’s call could have just been ignored even if he had made it.
Corbyn this afternoon said he would call for a vote if Mrs May did not reschedule the Brexit showdown she postponed last week.
Mrs May is expected to lose that vote by a landslide but confirmed today it would be held in the week beginning January 14.
She announced the date before Corbyn called for the no confidence vote, leading Labour to claim his threat alone had been enough after he did not issue his motion when he spoke at 3.45pm.
Downing Street said it had made no difference and pointed out Mrs May said last week the vote would be held in the New Year and before January 21. Mr Corbyn returned to the Commons at 5.50pm to table the motion.
A Labour spokesman insisted Mrs May only announced a date ‘under threat of a motion of no confidence in her’.
No 10 said Mrs May had made the decision to timetable the vote before Mr Corbyn’s team issued briefings about the stunt. Her statement was sent to him in the normal way at around 3pm.
The Labour leader will use his response to the PM’s statement to Parliament today to condemn the failure of Mrs May to hold her ‘meaningful vote’ on the deal
Mr Corbyn has been reluctant to move to a full vote of confidence until after the Prime Minister loses a showdown on the deal – to the frustration of the SNP and other opposition parties.
Labour sources let it be known that if Mrs May did not name a date, Mr Corbyn planned to tell MPs: ‘I will table a motion that this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister due to her failure to allow the House of Commons to have a meaningful vote straight away on the withdrawal agreement and framework for the the future relationship between the UK and the EU.’
In the end, Mr Corbyn never delivered the lines. A party spokesman said: ‘We will not let her cynically run down the clock to create the false choice between her botched deal and no deal.
What are the types of confidence vote that the PM can face?
1. Vote of confidence in the Prime Minister
Today’s vote as suggested by Mr Corbyn expresses his lack of confidence in the Prime Minister, not in her government as a whole.
The Commons Leader is only obliged to make time for a confidence vote in the Government itself.
That means that if Corbyn had demanded a vote into Mrs May’s administration rather than the prime minister herself, it could not be dismissed.
2. Vote of confidence triggered by sitting prime minister’s own MPs
The Prime Minister has already been forced to hold a vote of confidence to be decided by members of her party.
This occurred because the Tory 1922 Committee announced the threshold of 48 letters expressing no confidence in Mrs May had been reached. She survived the vote with a majority of 83 MPs.
3. Vote of confidence in the government demanded by Leader of the Opposition
Only the Leader of the Opposition has the power to demand this vote. The Fixed Term Parliaments Act requires the Leader of the Commons to submit to such a vote, which could then topple the prime minister from her position.
‘It is disgraceful that a month has been wasted. We were due to vote on 11 December and there can be no further attempts to dodge accountability to Parliament.’
Labour cannot win a confidence motion without votes from the DUP or Brexiteer rebels – but it takes fewer than a dozen Government MPs to switch sides.
Mr Corbyn has no time left to bring his own votes this year meaning the Government would have to give explicit permission for this motion to be debated.
Commons leader Andrea Leadsom is only obliged to make time for a full-blown confidence vote under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.
Mrs May dug in her heels today and insisted there would not be a second referendum, a vote on her Brexit deal before Christmas or an extension to Article 50.
The PM faces her fractious Cabinet tomorrow to discuss preparations for no deal amid deep splits over the way forward if and when her deal is defeated.
She said she is still hoping to secure more ‘political and legal assurances’ from the EU on the Irish border backstop, and as a result the showdown in Parliament has been postponed.
Appealing for MPs to get behind her plan, Mrs May said European counterparts had made clear ‘they do not want to use’ the insurance policy in the agreement.
She also delivered a stinging rebuke to those calling for a second referendum, saying it would only lead to ‘disaster’.
The defiant statement to the Commons comes as Mrs May wrestles to stop the Cabinet descending into chaos, with ministers openly floating alternatives to her Brexit plan.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd today risked directly contradicting the PM by insisting ‘nothing should be off the table’ if the government’s plan is rejected by the Commons.
Business Secretary Greg Clark also backed demands for MPs to vote on a range of ‘options’.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd (pictured left today) risked directly contradicting the PM by insisting ‘nothing should be off the table’ if the government’s plan is rejected by the Commons. Business Secretary Greg Clark also backed demands for MPs to vote on a range of ‘options’.
Boris Johnson (pictured last week) has insisted anyone backing a fresh referendum is ‘out of their minds’ and it would create ‘feelings of betrayal’ among millions of voters
Mrs May is understood to be resisting calls for the Commons to vote on a series of Brexit options, amid fears it would merely plunge the process deeper into turmoil.
She gathered senior ministers in Downing Street this morning for an informal discussion on the situation – before what could be a crucial full meeting tomorrow morning.
Despite hitting a brick wall of EU resistance to improving her Brexit deal at a summit last week, Mrs May confirmed the timetable for the vote.
What Brexit options could MPs vote on if May’s deal fails?
More than half a dozen Cabinet ministers are pushing for Parliament to vote on ‘options’ for how to proceed if Theresa May’s deal fails.
Here are some of the possibilities that could be considered:
MPs from across parties have been mooting the idea of a Norway model.
It would effectively keep the UK in the single market, with a customs bolt-on to avoid a hard Irish border, and backers say it would keep Britain close to the EU while cutting contributions to Brussels.
However, critics say it has the drawbacks of keeping free movement, – and tightly limiting the possibilities for doing trade deals elsewhere.
The EU is also thought to have concerns about a country the UK’s size joining the EEA, while other states in the group might be resistant.
The so-called ‘People’s Vote’ campaign has been pushing hard for another national vote, with cross-party backing.
MPs would almost certainly want to be asked to back the idea in principle.
The Article 50 process would probably need to be extended to facilitate a referendum, but the EU seems open to that possibility.
However, the biggest problem is likely to be that even if the Commons can agree on holding a vote, they will be be completely split over the question.
Some want it to be a rerun of 2016 with Remain v Leave. Others say it should be May’s deal against no deal.
There are also those who support two rounds of voting, or multiple choice.
Brexiteers have been demanding the UK takes a different approach this time, seeking a looser Canada-style arrangement with the EU.
The arrangement they want would be a relatively clean break from the EU, with the ability to strike trade agreements elsewhere.
But it would fall far short of the low-friction access urged by Labour and large numbers of Tories.
MANAGED NO DEAL
Brexiteers have been floating a ‘managed’ no deal which could feature in the votes.
It would involve the UK offering the EU billions of pounds to secure a transition period, even if there is no wider deal.
However, there is little sign that the EU is ready to agree.
‘It is now only just over 14 weeks until the UK leaves the EU and I know many members of this House are concerned that we need to take a decision soon,’ she said.
‘My right honourable friend the Leader of the House will set out business on Thursday in the usual way, but I can confirm today that we intend to return to the meaningful vote debate in the week commencing January 7 and hold the vote the following week.’
She faced accusations of ‘breaking faith’ on her promise to submit to scrutiny.
Former minister Nicky Morgan said the public would not understand why MPs are going on holiday for two weeks over Christmas with the situation in chaos.
Another senior Tory, Andrew Mitchell urged her to extend Article 50 to give more time for a way through to be found.
But Mrs May insisted she is still hoping to secure tweaks to her deal.
‘I know there are a range of very strongly-held personal views on this issue across the House and I respect all of them,’ she said,
‘But expressing our personal views is not what we are here to do. We asked the British people to take this decision.’
She added: ‘I know this is not everyone’s perfect deal. It is a compromise.
‘But if we let the perfect be the enemy of the good, we risk leaving the EU with no deal.’
Mrs May stressed that the Government had prepared for a no-deal Brexit and ‘tomorrow the Cabinet will be discussing the next phase in ensuring we are ready for that scenario’.
Labour is holding off on staging a no-confidence vote in the government until after the deal is defeated.
Before this evening’s call for a confidence vote, Mr Corbyn had already threatened to push for such a showdown.
He declared earlier today that he wanted to stage a specific vote censuring the PM if she does not announce a date for the Brexit vote.
But he was forced to drop the threat from his speech because Mrs May did give a date.
He then claimed the threat alone had been enough to make the PM name a new date.
One Cabinet group, including Philip Hammond, Mr Clark and Ms Rudd, are pushing for the Commons to be allowed to vote on a range of options, including holding a second referendum and the choice of a Norway-style relationship.
In the clearest public statement yet, Mr Clark told the BBC today that if Mrs May’s deal falls ‘Parliament should be invited to say what it would agree with’.
He cautioned against a second referendum, saying it would ‘continue the uncertainty for many more months’.
Ms Rudd said this morning that Parliament should be allowed to express its will and ‘nothing should be off the table’.
But harder line Brexiteers believe an ‘options’ vote would just be cover for delaying or cancelling Brexit.
They are urging a ‘managed’ no deal exit – which could involve paying the EU for a transition period and limited agreements to limits the worst effects of crashing out.
As the wrangling continues, Home Secretary Sajid Javid is understood to be among ministers who are pressing Mrs May to activate large scale no-deal planning – on the basis that the outcome must now by the central assumption for the government.
In the Commons this afternoon, Mrs May all but ruled out holding a second vote while she remains in charge.
Another referendum would ‘likely leave us no further forward than the last… and further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it’, she warned.
Simple vote could extend Article 50, says government lawyer
Parliament could extend Article 50 to buy more time before Brexit by holding a simple vote, the government’s legal advisor has said.
It is believed that Article 50, the mechanism for leaving the EU, would have to be extended beyond March 29 if Britain decides to hold a second referendum.
Robert Buckland said extension would not require fresh legislation, just a one-off vote in the Commons.
Scrapping Article 50 altogether would, however, require new legislation, Mr Buckland told Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.
He said: ‘I think the better view would be that legislation would be necessary. I think we would have to repeal the EU Withdrawal Act.
‘Revocation is one thing but delaying Article 50 is another matter that can be done by a minister laying a statutory instrument to vary exit day – it’s there as part of a power.’
Mr Buckland also suggested MPs could be given a free vote on the Brexit way forward.
‘I think if all the parties agreed to it then it’s something that might well work, but I think it would be imbalanced if one party did it and the other did not,’ he said.
She added: ‘Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum, another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy that our democracy does not deliver.’
Her intervention came amid mounting anger over the revelation that chief-of-staff Gavin Barwell and deputy David Lidington had backed the idea of a second referendum.
MPs and ministers reacted furiously to reports yesterday that Mr Barwell had told colleagues a second poll was ‘the only way forward’ in the light of opposition to her Brexit deal.
On social media messages yesterday, Mr Barwell said he was not planning for a second referendum.
Mr Lidington also raised eyebrows after it emerged he held secret talks last week with Labour MPs in favour of another poll.
Despite the denials, Cabinet sources complained that the rumours had the ‘ring of truth’.
Remainers condemned the government for trying to ‘run down the clock’.
Former minister Sam Gyimah said: ‘Downing St has stopped selling the PMs flawed deal.
‘Instead we have displacement activity designed to distract from last weeks failed renegotiation.
‘And a concerted attempt to discredit every plausible alternative as they run down the clock. This is not in the national interest.’
‘I think, obviously, it’s important once the Prime Minister has finished her negotiations with other European leaders and the Commission that Parliament votes on that.
‘If that were not to be successful, we do need to have agreement – we can’t just have continuing uncertainty and I think Parliament should be invited to say what it would agree with, and that’s something that I think businesses up and down the country would expect elected members to take responsibility, rather than just be critics.’