THERESA May suffered another devastating revolt when eight Cabinet ministers and 188 Tory MPs refused to back her plan to delay Brexit.
In another night of extraordinary chaos in the Commons, Parliament voted for her proposal to push back Britain’s EU exit until at least June 30, by 413 v 202.
Reuters The PM won her Brexit delay, but Cabinet and Tory MPs went against her decision in an act of rebellion
And if Mrs May’s divorce deal is voted down a third time, the majority of 211 gave her a green light to agree to an EU demand of a delay of up to two years.
The PM’s proposal for the two different delays – drawn up after the Commons threw out any No Deal exit on Wednesday – is No10’s last ditch ultimatum to heap pressure on hardliners to vote for her divorce deal in a final showdown next week.
With her Mrs May’s authority already in shreds, she was forced to make her motion a free vote to contain the humiliation of another revolt.
But the PM was left reeling when the huge number of Tories – almost two thirds of her Commons ranks – seized on the opportunity to mount the protest against their leader.
In a personal humiliation for Mrs May, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay voted against her having only just closed the Commons debate with a call for MPs to back her.
Minutes before walking through the No lobby, Mr Barclay had told the house: “It is time to put forward an extension that is realistic. I commend the Government motion to the House”.
The seven other Cabinet ministers rebelling were Alun Cairns, Liam Fox, Chris Grayling, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, Lis Truss and Gavin Williamson.
A total of 21 junior ministers also voted against the PM, as well as seven whips – and her Chief Whip Julian Smith abstained.
The mass protest was last night as yet another insulting blow to Mrs May’s dwindling authority, as the Brexit crisis pushes her administration to the brink of collapse.
'THEY'VE HAD ENOUGH OF HER'
One senior Tory Brexiteer said: “So many whips walking through the opposite lobby as the PM is what she really needs to worry about.
“They are sending a very clear signal that they have just about had enough of her.
Half a dozen Tory Remainers met senior members of the Government in No10 to present their proposal to back the deal on condition it's put to a public vote
But former minister Philip Lee, who was one of the MPs attending, said "no inducements were offered" from No10.
May loyalists were seething with the protest, with one minister accusing the Cabinet rebels of being “ambitious peacocks, openly preening themselves for a leadership contest”.
But shell-shocked Downing Street aides insisted Mrs May would not change course and she would press on with her ultimatum.
The PM’s official spokesman said after the vote: “It was a free vote, that was made clear.
“She understands there are strong feelings on all sides of the argument.
“She believes if we can’t win a majority for her deal, the reality means the EU will impose a long extension.”
The spokesman added: “The PM absolutely wanted and strived for the UK to leave the EU on March 29.
“Everything she has done since she entered office was intended to deliver that.”
In another night of knife edge votes, the PM also suffered the narrowest of escapes from a bid by rebel Tories to seize immediate control of Brexit’s shape.
The Government managed to fight off a bid lead by Tory grandee Sir Oliver Lewtin and Labour’s Hilary Benn to tip control of the Commons next Wednesday for votes to decide how to soften Brexit by 312 v 314, a margin of just TWO votes.
Getty Images – Getty Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay voted against her having only just closed the Commons debate with a call for MPs to back her
Mrs May was saved only by the votes of six Brexiteer Labour MPs and four independents, after 15 Tory MPs rebelled, including four ex-Cabinet ministers.
But to stem an even bigger rebellion, the PM was forced to agree to hand over her power to MPs to decide how to soften Brexit if her EU deal is voted down a third and final time next week.
The Government agreed to hold two weeks of ‘indicative votes’ starting in 10 days time, if EU leaders decide to sign off a long extension at a summit next week.
A third meaningful Vote on the PM’s deal is now expected on Monday or Tuesday next week, after No10 insisted it must be passed before the summit in Brussels in six days time.
In a sign that the PM’s ultimatum was beginning to have some effect, the trickle of hardline Brexiteers switching their vote to back the PM’s deal continued yesterday.
One Tory MP, Lucy Allan, tweeted: “The options we are faced with is Theresa May’s deal or no Brexit”.
Friends of former Cabinet minister Esther McVey, who resigned in November last year in protest at the deal, also said she might come round.
The friend added: “Esther wants to see if something can done with the deal after it is passed, but she is thinking hard about it now”.
Another who is wavering, Leave-backing Tory MP Conor Burns, added: “What I’ve told my whip for as long as the last two weeks is that I’ve reached the point where I’m actively looking for reasons to support the Withdrawal Agreement”.
Pressure is growing again on Attorney General Geoffrey Cox to come up with a fresh legal twist so he can improve his advice on the deal not trapping Britain in the Irish backstop forever.
BREXITEERS REMAIN DEFIANT
Chancellor Philip Hammond yesterday suggested the Government’s legal chief may change his disastrous legal advice on Tuesday after hearing the views of other QCs.
But one ally of Mr Cox last night warned: “Geoffrey is not a magician.
“There is a real danger now with people investing too much in his work streams.
“The law doesn’t work like that. The bottom line is this is still a political decision for colleagues, not a legal one.”
Other Brexiteers remained defiant.
Arch eurosceptic Tory MP Christopher Chope even went public on Brexiteer threats – revealed by The Sun yesterday – to bring down Mrs May’s Government to stop her.
Sir Christopher told the Commons he would “seriously consider” backing a fresh bid by Jeremy Corbyn to table a no confidence vote in the PM’s administration, adding: “People on this side who feel that they are being betrayed would actually look carefully at that”.
The hardline Tory European Research Group’s deputy chair Mark Francois said: “If it’s a rancid deal, why vote for it?”
Another senior Brexiteer Tory even hinted he could quit the Tory party if Brexit is delayed by years.
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker shared a tweet from a fellow eurosceptic who complained he was “in search of a political party”, adding: “This is what we face”.
Reuters Chris Grayling was one of the Cabinet ministers who went against the PM
AFP or licensors Chancellor Philip Hammond suggested the Government’s legal chief may change his legal advice
AFP or licensors Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt is one of the Cabinet rebels
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says 'MPs have ruled-out both a No Deal Brexit and the Prime Minister's deal – extending Article 50 is now inevitable'
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