MPs defeat May government over no-deal Brexit

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Barry Gardiner, the opposition Labour Party's shadow worldwide trade secretary, said earlier his party will table a no confidence motion in the government if - as expected - Parliament votes down Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.

Crucially, MPs will be able to make and vote on amendments to this Brexit Plan B, opening the door for a second referendum to be put to the Commons.

Theresa May suffered yet another defeat over Brexit on Wednesday after a furious row erupted between Tory MPs and Commons Speaker John Bercow.

May survived a confidence vote in her own Conservative party over the agreement in December, but her Brexit-backing MPs are still in open revolt.

Housing minister Heather Wheeler, who voted for Leave, said she thought there was a "plan to win" under way regarding the deal, and Eddisbury MP and Remain supporter Antoinette Sandbach said it had been a "very positive evening".

The government said it was an "inconvenience" but would not stop its preparations for leaving the EU.

A potentially damaging no-deal exit is the default scenario if May's deal is rejected, with the UK's central bank warning that Britain's gross domestic product (GDP) could shrink by up to eight percent in such a scenario.

"The prime minister said that she would close the debate next Tuesday, which is January 15, when the vote will take place", her spokesperson told reporters.

However, France's Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau said "there is nothing more that we can do" - and warned against putting too much faith in talk of extending Article 50.

A Government source speaking to The Times said Bercow allowed the amendment despite Commons clerks, whose job it is to advise the Speaker on Parliamentary procedure, telling him that amendments should not have been allowed.

"The Prime Minister has spent the last week begging for warm words from European Union leaders and achieved nothing".

"Theresa May must now rule out no deal once and for all".

The DUP's 10 MPs strongly object to the backstop, which they say curbs Northern Ireland's freedom to strike trade deals and result in NI being treated differently from the rest of the UK.

Challenging Mr Bercow on the decision in a further point of order, former Tory minister Crispin Blunt called on the Speaker to "reflect" on his position.

"The government doesn't have a reliable majority to push its agenda through and suggests this vote next week is going to be even harder than we already knew it was going to be", he said.

For the second time in as many months, the House of Commons begins a debate later today on the Brexit deal agreed between the British government and the European Union 27 member states.

But the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it would not support the deal unless May dropped a part known as the backstop which is aimed at preventing a hard border between the British province and EU-member Ireland if both sides fail to clinch a future trade deal.

She said it would be unacceptable to hand the DUP a "veto" on backstop arrangements.

Critics of the backstop argue it could tie the United Kingdom into the EU's orbit indefinitely.

But the amendment will force the PM on to the rebels' timetable, and bring her deal back in front of MPs for a second time after just three days - barely any time to get extra concessions from Brussels.

But EU leaders have refused to budge, insisting that the withdrawal agreement can not be renegotiated.

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