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THERESA MAY suffered a second heavy defeat over her Brexit deal tonight after 391 MPs voted against it.
A majority of 149 MPs voted against accepting the Withdrawal Agreement as just 242 MPs voted for it.
This means that 81 MPs changed their mind in favour of the plan since the first vote on their deal took place in January, when it was rejected by a massive 230 vote majority.
MPs will be voting on Wednesday on whether to leave the EU on a “no-deal” basis. If that is voted down, then they would vote on whether to extend Article 50.
Senior Tory Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee of back-bench Tory MPs, had predicted that if Ms May’s Brexit deal was rejected a second time “there will be a general election within a matter of days or weeks.”
Hours before the second "meaningful vote", Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Tory government of trying to “fool its own backbenchers” by using "smoke and mirrors" to quash MPs' fears that the backstop would tie Britain to the bloc’s rules indefinitely.
This came after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had said that he had given Ms May “clarifications” and “legal guarantees” over the backstop on Monday night in Strasbourg.
Mr Corbyn said Mr Juncker and Ms May’s meeting merely amounted to “late-night theatre.”
This also echoes the concerns of the PM’s attorney general Geoffrey Cox QC, who said that the “legal risk [of the backstop] remains unchanged” and that Britain would have no legal means of exiting the backstop without EU agreement.
Mr Corbyn had urged MPs to reject the deal because “not a single change” has been made to the Withdrawal Agreement.
He pointed out that there were also no legal guarantees for a unilateral exit mechanism, time limit or alternative arrangements for the backstop.
In December, Ms May postponed the first “meaningful vote” until January, which saw her deal roundly rejected by a majority of 230 MPs, the largest number in modern British history.
Mr Corbyn accused her of “coming back to the scene of previous disasters with exactly the same proposal” yesterday.
He condemned the government for using “weasel words and obfuscation” by having claimed that the so-called “legally binding joint instrument” for the backstop “reduces the risk the UK could be deliberately held in the Northern Ireland backstop indefinitely.”
He said that the use of the words “reduces” and “deliberately” mean that a risk will not be eliminated.
Mr Corbyn continued: “This is smoke and mirrors. The illusion of change, when the reality is that nothing has changed. This is spin, not substance, from the Prime Minister.”
He also criticised Ms May for trying to entice Labour MPs to vote for her deal with “empty promises about workers’ rights” made in her speech in Grimsby last week.
She had claimed that being aligned with EU workers’ rights would mean that they would be downgraded if the EU lowered theirs.
Mr Corbyn said: “That is simply not true. EU standards are a floor not a ceiling. If the EU chose to reduce those minimum standards it would not compel the UK to lower its standards.”
He reiterated Labour’s demands for Brexit to include a permanent customs union, close alignment with the single market, alignment on rights and protections, commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, and agreements on the detail of future security arrangements.
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