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Norfolk MPs react as prime minister suffers devastating second blow to Brexit deal

PUBLISHED: 22:28 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:53 13 March 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons, London. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons, London. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire

The prime minister has been dramatically defeated on her Brexit deal in the House of Commons for a second time.

Richard Bacon MP.   Picture: DENISE BRADLEYRichard Bacon MP. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

MPs voted on Tuesday night on whether they accepted Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement, after an 11th hour trip to Strasbourg secured new agreements with Jean-Claude Juncker.

But MPs voted by 391 to 242 against the deal, despite the Prime Minister’s assurance the UK cannot be trapped in the controversial backstop arrangement indefinitely.

Although the 149 margin was reduced from the record 230-vote defeat of the first meaningful vote in January, Mrs May was left far adrift from a majority with just 17 days to go to the scheduled date of Brexit on March 29.

European Commission president Mr Juncker had already warned that if MPs turned down the package agreed in Strasbourg on Monday, there would be “no third chance” to renegotiate.

In line with a promise set out by Mrs May last month, MPs are now due to vote on Wednesday on whether they are willing for the UK to leave the EU without a deal on March 29. Conservative MPs have been granted a free vote.

Keith Simpson MP. Photo: Luke PowellKeith Simpson MP. Photo: Luke Powell

If they reject no-deal as most Westminster observers expect, a third vote will follow - probably on Thursday - on authorising Mrs May to request an extension of the two-year Article 50 negotiation process.

An extension requires the unanimous agreement of all 27 remaining member states, and Mr Juncker has warned that it cannot stretch beyond May 23 unless the UK takes part in the European Parliament elections starting on that date.

Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk, voted against the government.

He said: “I voted against the government because I cannot risk handing over permanently to people overseas - whom we cannot elect and cannot get rid of - the power to make our laws.

”This would be a denial of everything I believe about our parliament and in my view would be to hand over powers which are not mine to give away.”

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Keith Simpson, Conservative Broadland MP, said he wasn’t surprised and thought even if a large contingent of the hardline Brexiteer ERG had come onside it would have been “nip and tuck”. But he said he now felt “we are getting closer to the possibility there will be no Brexit”.

He said: “I think that is a slap in the face of the referendum.”

Mr Simpson voted for the government’s deal but said he was “totally against leaving without a deal”.

But he said he was not sure yet whether he would vote to seek to extend article 50.

“It’s been a rollercoaster 24 hours,” he said.

Sir Henry Bellingham. Picture: Ian BurtSir Henry Bellingham. Picture: Ian Burt

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said Mrs May’s deal was “dead in the water”.

He said: “There is no appetite at the moment for anything on the table. The only way we’re going to be able to get out of this bind is putting Theresa May’s deal to the public.”

Sir Henry Bellingham, Tory for North West Norfolk, also said Mrs May’s “deal is dead”.

Sir Henry, who voted with the government, said he expected Mrs May to go back to Brussels. He said: “It’s time for plan B, for the Malthouse compromise.

“And I think probably now there will have to be an extension to Article 50 and there are going to have to be pretty radical changes to her agreement. We’re moving towards uncharted territory.”

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Photo: Steve AdamsNorwich North MP Chloe Smith. Photo: Steve Adams

He added: “The one thing they [Conservatives] do not want is a general election. That’s the view of many in the Labour Party and it’s the view of the Independent Group as well, the government needs to get a grip on the situation.”

Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, also voted with the government.

She said: “I voted for the deal because it was the best prospect for jobs and certainty for my constituents while delivering the referendum result.

“I will be looking at the options over the next few days with the same principles in mind.”

Peter Aldous, Tory MP for Waveney, said he was “disappointed” with the result.

Peter Aldous, Waveney MP.Peter Aldous, Waveney MP.

He said: “I think [the prime minister] and her ministers have worked very, very hard to reach an agreement that they felt - and I agreed - was in the best interests of the country.”

He said he had been “personally looking forward to getting on” and looking at the fishing industry..

“There’s going to be a period of uncertainty,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of votes coming up in the next few days. I need to take stock of the situation overnight.”

Earlier in the day Liz Truss, Conservative for South West Norfolk, said: “We need to get on with leaving the EU and I support the prime minister’s Brexit deal. There are lots of opportunities when we leave the European Union and I believe we can face the future with confidence.”

Brandon Lewis, Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth, and George Freeman, Conservative for Mid Norfolk, all voted for the deal.

South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss. 
Photo: PA / Victoria JonesSouth West Norfolk MP Liz Truss. Photo: PA / Victoria Jones

While Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat for North Norfolk, voted against.

Mr Lamb said: “In the aftermath of this further defeat for the Prime Minister’s deal, MPs from across Parliament must work together to build a consensus. I have been working with both Conservative and Labour MPs to explore how to do this.

“Up until now, the Prime Minister has failed to reach out in any meaningful way to MPs from other parties. She has sought to keep the Conservative Party together but that has failed. Now, we must all act in the national interest to achieve a resolution.”

He welcomed the decision to allow Tory MPs a free vote on Wednesday, and said further Brexit votes should follow the same example.

He added: “Then, if we can reach agreement, there should be a vote in Parliament on whether to put any such deal to the country.”

Alex Mayer, Labour MEP for the East of England, said “Not a single sentence, word or comma changed in the withdrawal agreement text since the last time Theresa May put the deal to parliament. Her 11th hour dash to Strasbourg looked like a desperate ploy to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes

“This is not a deal that protect jobs, rights or living standards. It makes us a rule taker not a rule maker.

“So I not surprised this miserable, flawed deal got voted down - in fact I’m pleased. But what a mess.

“MPs now need to rule out no deal as soon as possible and after two and a half years of failed negotiations, making Britain a laughing stock, it is time for a public vote.”

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