A no confidence vote that could oust Theresa May will be held tomorrow after Jeremy Corbyn launched his attack on the Government seconds after the Brexit deal was crushed.
In a surprise move, the Prime Minister seized on the defeat to admit she would face a no confidence vote before Mr Corbyn even had a chance to announce his plan.
As he finally made his move the Labour leader said it was a ‘catastrophic’ defeat for the Government and confirmed he would seek to oust Mrs May tomorrow.
And his spokesman suggested that if Labour lose tomorrow’s vote they could table another no confidence vote in future weeks.
In a defiant statement moments after Mrs May was defeated 432 to 202, Mr Corbyn said he had tabled the crucial motion.
The move triggers a high-stakes contest that, if he wins, could send Mrs May tumbling from office and pave the way for a general election.
But Mrs May looks set to cling on tomorrow after the DUP and her hardline Brexiteers confirmed they would vote for her – despite pulling their support tonight.
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured leaving his London home today) is hoping to seize on the chaos of the PM’s deal being voted down to table a no confidence motion and try to topple Mrs May
Theresa May (pictured in the Commons tonight after her crushing defeat) will face a fresh attack tomorrow a Labour try to topple her from power
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured leaving Parliament tonight) move the Labour leader said it was a ‘catastrophic’ defeat for the Government and confirmed he would seek to oust Mrs May tomorrow
Labour MPs upped the pressure on Mr Corbyn to table the confidence motion after he U-turned on his threats to hold one last month.
Backbencher Gavin Shuker said failure to force a vote would be an ‘abdication of leadership’ and prove that the Labour leader is just trying to dodge backing a second Brexit referendum.
How can Corbyn call a confidence vote and what would it mean?
What is a vote of no confidence?
To win and keep power, any Prime Minister has to be able to win votes in the House of Commons – this is known as ‘confidence’. Where the Opposition believes this is no longer true, it can call a vote of no confidence to demonstrate it.
Why is Corbyn expected to call one tonight?
Theresa May is set to lose a vote on her Brexit deal tonight – potentially by the biggest margin ever recorded. Corbyn will say this is proof she does not have the confidence of the House.
Why might he delay?
Corbyn has resisted demands for weeks to call a vote, insisting it will only happen when he is sure he will win. His backbenchers think it is also to avoid him having to back a new referendum on Brexit.
How will he do it?
If he makes his move, Corbyn will appear briefly at the Despatch Box to make a point of order. He will announce he has tabled a motion of no confidence.
When will the vote happen?
Commons rules say the Government should schedule the motion for a debate and vote ‘soon’. It is widely expected to happen tomorrow – but could be delayed until Thursday and maybe even Monday.
Will May lose?
Probably not – this time. Labour and other opposition parties cannot win without help from Tory MPs. Some have suggested they might join a no confidence motion to prevent no deal Brexit but May is unlikely to back this after losing tonight’s vote.
What would losing mean?
Historically, losing a no confidence vote would be a trigger for the Prime Minister to resign and call a general election. This last happened in 1979, bringing down James Callaghan 311-310 – paving the way for the election of Margaret Thatcher.
This is no longer true. Instead, it starts a 14-day countdown in which the Government must assemble a new coalition or the Opposition must demonstrate it can form a Government.
Failure would then mean an election.
Mr Shuker said: ‘A failure to table a no confidence motion would be a huge betrayal tonight.
‘An abdication of leadership; the act of someone trying dodge a People’s Vote and run down the clock.’
And speaking after the dramatic scenes in the Commons tonight, the PM’s spokesman said: ‘Motions of no confidence can happen more than once.’
Labour want to oust Mrs May, force a general election, seize power and take control of the Brexit talks.
They insist that a Labour government would do a better job in the talks than the PM.
But Labour are deeply divided on Brexit – with many Remainer MPs clamouring for a second referendum while voters in the Labour heartlands overwhelmingly backed Brexit.
Mr Corbyn is under huge pressure from his backbenchers to back a second referendum, dubbed a ‘People’s Vote’.
But he has tried to dodge these demands by saying that he will push for another election but after that all options are on the table.
And today his spokesman suggested that they could repeatedly try to delay the moment of truth when they will have to decide whether or not to back another referendum by tabling more than one no confidence vote.
Mrs May lost the crucial vote on her Brexit deal by a staggering 230 votes tonight – the biggest defeat inflicted on a PM in over 100 years.
The previous largest was 166 by the minority Labour government in 1924.
She is now desperately scrambling to try to drum up support from Labour moderates for another tweaked version of her Brexit deal.
If she survives tomorrow’s confidence vote to cling on as PM, then she will hold a series of meetings with MPs across the House to try to find a way forward.
But only three Labour MPs defied their party to vote with the PM on her Brexit plan tonight – John Mann, Ian Austin and Kevin Barron.
Seizing on the PM’s defeat to try to push his new bid for power, Mr Corbyn told the Commons tonight: ‘The result of tonight’s vote is the greatest defeat for a Government since the 1920s in this House. This is a catastrophic defeat for this Government.
‘After two years of failed negotiations the House of Commons has delivered its verdict on her Brexit deal and that verdict is absolutely decisive.
‘I hear the words of the Prime Minister but the actions of the past two years speak equally clearly.’
He added: ‘The most important issue facing us is that the Government has lost the confidence of this House and this country.
‘I therefore inform you I have now tabled a motion of no confidence in this Government.’
How does the Brexit vote measure up to previous Commons showdowns
166 – Labour goverment in 1924
The largest government defeat in modern times occurred on October 8 1924, when the minority Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald lost a vote by 364 votes to 198.
The vote was on an amendment put forward by the Liberal Party to set up a select committee to investigate the Government’s decision to drop criminal proceedings against JR Campbell, editor of the Communist newspaper Workers Weekly, which had recently published an article encouraging the armed forces to mutiny.
89 – Labour government in 1979
On March 22 1979, in the last few weeks of the Labour government led by Jim Callaghan, MPs voted on a motion to annul the fees for a firearms certificate.
Although the numbers taking part were low, the Government lost by 115 to 26.
86 – Labour government in 1978
The largest post-war defeat where at least half of MPs took part. It happened on January 25 1978, when MPs voted by 204 to 118 on an opposition amendment to the Callaghan government’s Scotland Devolution Bill.
The legislation had excluded Orkney and Shetland from the provisions of the Bill if they voted ‘no’ in a referendum.
DUP leader Arlene Foster had some solace for Mrs May today as she confirmed that the confidence and supply deal with the Tories – which props them up in power – still holds.
The commitment means there should be little chance of Labour winning a vote.
Under Commons rules, the government must allow time for a no-confidence vote when the official Opposition asks for one.
Mr Corbyn had accused the Prime Minister of trying to ‘blackmail’ Labour MPs into supporting her Brexit deal.
He said: ‘At every turn the Prime Minister has closed the door on dialogue.
‘Businesses begged her to negotiate a comprehensive customs union, trade union leaders pressed her for the same thing. They were ignored.
‘In the last two years, she has only had one priority: the Conservative Party.
‘Her governing principle of delay and denial has reached the end of the line.
‘She cannot seriously believe that after two years of failure, she is capable of negotiating a good deal for the people of this country.
‘On the most important issue facing us, this government has lost the confidence of this House and this country.’
If the no-confidence motion passes – and a new government with the support of a majority of MPs cannot be formed within a fortnight – Parliament will be dissolved and an early election called.
However, Mr Corbyn is unlikely to succeed as the Democratic Unionist Party and hardline Tory Eurosceptics have pledged they would not side with Labour.
It came as a poll showed Labour falling six points behind the Conservatives despite the Brexit chaos engulfing Mrs May’s party.
In the YouGov poll for the Times Mr Corbyn’s party plunged to 35 per cent, its lowest rating since mid December, while the Tories score 41 per cent.
Mr Corbyn is believed to have held off on challenging the Government amid fears that failure to trigger a general election could lead to a second referendum.
Under Labour’s Brexit plans, decided at its conference in September, the party’s policy is to seek a general election first. If the party cannot secure one, Labour has promised to look at all options – including another referendum.
Polling suggests that a large majority of Labour members want Mr Corbyn to actively back a so-called People’s Vote – but this would prompt a backlash from his pro-Brexit voters in the party’s Northern heartlands.
He said Mrs May had failed to persuade his MPs, declaring: ‘The Labour Party will not be held to ransom.’
There were noisy protests outside of Parliament tonight as MPs inflicted the historic defeat on Mrs May
Later, addressing the Parliamentary Labour Party on the eve of today’s crucial vote, Mr Corbyn predicted that Mrs May’s deal would be defeated – and said the country should have a general election.
‘The Tory Party’s botched deal will be rejected by Parliament,’ he said. ‘We will then need an election to have the chance to vote for a government that can bring our people together and address the deep-seated issues facing our country.’
Aides said Labour expected a no-confidence motion to be treated as a top priority for debating time in the Commons. They said the timing was a matter for Mr Corbyn.
A source stressed that a second referendum is only one of a number of options on the table for Labour, alongside seeking a different Brexit deal in line with the party’s own priorities.