Defeat! British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a crushing defeat Tuesday as Parliament overwhelmingly rejected her Brexit deal with the European Union -- a defeat that places the future of Brexit in doubt and is likely to spark calls for May's ouster via a general election. May's withdrawal agreement was voted down 432-202, the largest for a prime minister in the history of the House of Commons. May was expected to lose, but the extent to which she lost was significant and marks a devastating blow for her leadership and her ability to go back to Brussels and negotiate further concessions. May acknowledged that her deal was rejected by Parliament, but added: "Tonight's vote tells us nothing about what it does support." Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn immediately tabled a motion of no-confidence in the government, which is likely to be debated on Wednesday.
Tom Harwood, reporter for @guidofawkes gives Fox New Radio's Guy Benson & Marie Harf the latest from across the pond!
Guy Benson: [00:00:49] Welcome back to Bensen and Harf. A seismic event in UK politics today an overwhelming vote you heard the count there from the speaker for 432 to 2 0 2 with the government. Theresa May's government losing in the most lopsided loss ever in a vote by a sitting government a humiliation for Prime Minister may and then the second sound bite you heard was Prime Minister May herself saying OK we now know what the House of Commons is against. What are you for. It is unclear but people deserve clarity. Where Do We Go From Here.
Marie Harf: [00:01:24] Seventy three days away from the deadline for Brexit.
Guy Benson [00:01:27] Yes so we might be careening towards a crash out with no deal in place an extension meanwhile. Tomorrow there's going to be a vote of no confidence in May and her government called by the opposition leader she sort of challenged Jeremy Corbyn the very far left Labour right opposition leader saying are you going to call for a vote of no confidence you said yes and that is now scheduled for tomorrow. So her government could topple. There could be general elections new general elections triggered by what happened today.
Marie Harf: [00:01:58] And she's also planning as of now to go back to Brussels to try and negotiate a new deal.
Guy Benson: [00:02:02] It is a mess. And joining us now from across the pond to help us make sense of this as best we can is our man in London Tom Horwood his reporter at Guido Fawkes a very widely read and influential political blog in Westminster. He's also a frequent guest on British television including BBC. Tom it's great to have you back. Thanks for joining us. Close to midnight over there.
Tom Harwood: [00:02:26] Not a problem Not a problem.
Guy Benson: [00:02:28] So you had quite a day as a political reporter and commentator in London tell us what we got right. What we got wrong in our lead up to tossing the interview over to you and just general lay of the land about what happened why it matters and what tomorrow will bring.
Tom Harwood: [00:02:46] Absolutely. This is a totally seismic defeat. You're totally right. The biggest defeat the government has faced in this country for hundreds of years a totally seismic event that will set the course of the next few weeks and months to be incredibly rocky. Where I would take you up on that point was that of the confidence motion that the government is facing tomorrow. The the coalition partner or not really coalition partner of the government the Democratic Unionist Party a smaller party from Northern Ireland has said they will support the government in this motion as have the backbenchers the prayer breakfast and issues of the government. So it doesn't look like Theresa reason they will lose this motion. If anything this makes Jeremy Corbyn position a bit more rocky because then he doesn't know exactly what to do. He has very little leverage after he probably loses this tomorrow.
Guy Benson: [00:03:47] Let me jump in. She sounds fairly confident of that it seems like they've done their head count and even though they lost catastrophicly today they plan to win tomorrow. Are they are they solid in that prediction or are they sort of on the happy side of hoping.
Tom Harwood: [00:04:05] The leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn is an extremist. Lots of people across the House of Commons whether they agree with or disagree with Theresa May on Brexit or terrified of the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister so that Brexit concerns to one side and a vote for Theresa May even if they disagree with her or her signature policy they think that you know better the devil we know than Jeremy Corbyn government.
Marie Harf: [00:04:32] Jeremy Corbyn right that was well put. Tom I want to ask you how would you answer the clip we played from Prime Minister may where she said OK basically it's clear what you all don't support. It is not at all clear what you would support. She's going back to Brussels to try to hammer out another different and new deal a better deal and bring it back to London. But there is a lot of uncertainty you know I was in London in December talked to a lot of family friends who are EU citizens but who live and work in London. There's a lot of uncertainty right now and I think that she she made a good point there how would you respond to her.
Tom Harwood: [00:05:13] That's absolutely true. The reason why that defeat was so big tonight is because both Pro Brexit people and pro people voted against her. She tried to stand in the middle of the two camps and got hit like hard hit by traffic from both sides right. What I would say though is that it is the legal default. MP voted last year for what's called off school safety. That means that the default is if no more legislation is asked between now and the 9th of March. We leave the EU with this deal since Parliament can't agree to anything. We're still leaving the EU but just with no trade deal with them.
Marie Harf: [00:05:49] Now what does that look like. What does that look like a hard Brexit no deal. You sort of crash out there could be a lot of repercussions to that right.
Tom Harwood: [00:06:00] Absolutely in the short term this could be very economically disruptive. However I don't think anyone seriously suspects that no comprehensive free trade agreement doesn't mean that there won't be little side agreements. So for example we're going to agree that each other's airplanes can fly the reach of these countries. We're going to agree that we can accept each other's standards of medicines for example. There are lots of little deals that can be agreed with after comprehensive free trade agreement. And also there's a lot unilaterally that the government can do as of the end of last year the government unilaterally for example guarantee citizens rights. So EU citizens who are living in the United Kingdom will be able to continue living in the United Kingdom whether there is a deal or no deal. And there are lots of little things that will happily make it not one big overarching trade. Now I don't think any Brexit if but no deal is better than a deal. What Theresa May said in the election in 2017 was that no deal is better than a bad deal. A lot of breaks to feel like what she has negotiated is a bad deal. And so a constable in the interim moving to a new deal despite the disruption in the view that we will end up eventually with a better deal because let's not forget that no trade deal between the UK and the EU and the EU. It damages both sides. There's no side that comes off better from the right and there'll be a huge impetus to negotiate.
Guy Benson: [00:07:25] Yeah I just think it's interesting to see the dynamic of harder line Brexiteers and then the remainders joining together and handing Theresa May this 230 margin vote margin defeat today for Americans who were sort of mystified by the parliamentary system and the idea that you could hold a brand new general election because the government could dissolve in a potential vote of no confidence because Tom last time we had you on the show she was facing a vote of no confidence within her own party. She survived although again not with a particularly robust number here she is expected tomorrow to have this vote face the vote survive again. What does this mean for the future of her leadership the future of her government it seems like she keeps sustaining significant blows and yet she's not going anywhere.
Tom Harwood: [00:08:18] Absolutely. She's like a jack in the box. You can keep punching her until spring. Right back up what happened then the 2017 election where she lost the last the majority party but she stayed on as prime minister. Then there were several domestic crises that big fire in London. She stayed on as prime minister after that even though she was perceived to have mismanagement of that. She had a disastrous speech in front of a whole party. She couldn't get through the speech she was coughing. It was a big PR disaster. She managed to survive that and then again this is her check for Brexit another deal that would be unpopular. She survived that despite Cabinet resignations every step of the way even though people have been predicting her downfall she's somehow survived. And that's because there is such high divisions break it. Lots of people and lots of parties are split both ways. Remain leavers into the union they stand there in the middle. Getting people from both sides that somehow managing to stay out. Right.
Guy Benson: [00:09:21] So maybe not an iron lady but a Teflon lady at least over the last year or so. Tom I'm curious on the substance of Brexit now. Does she I mean does this strengthen her hand at all going back to Brussels. Do you suspect there's any realistic scenario where she heads over to the EU and says All right you saw what just happened to me back home. This is not going to do. We have to do better and she comes back with something that could pass. What are the odds in your mind of something like that possibly happening before March 28.
Tom Harwood [00:09:52] To my mind it's 50/50. Because you have these two groups of them voting against one on the Brexit side and one on the remains right three Theresa May now have a choice Either she goes to Brussels and tries to get some concessions that will suit her direct voting colleagues in parliament and that could shore up a deal more concessions from the EU to the UK. But there's also a chance that she showed that she could go to Brussels and say actually we're going to give you more concessions and get more of the remaining people on side by giving the EU more control over for example environmental policy over workers rights the sort of things that the Labour Party want Brussels to have control over rather than the UK government. And if she was going to be duplicitous with her colleagues in parliament there's a chance that she'll go and actually try and placate the Labour side as opposed the conservative side. So really everything is very much up in the air and what she has consistently said is that if no deal is reached yes there is a chance that there'll be no deal. The second half of there might be a chance. There's no Brexit because Parliament and particularly the role of the speaker he has increased his power. We don't have a written constitution in this country. So there's a lot of discretion and he figures for example the speaker of the House who we heard in your clip earlier on. He can actually find elements of procedure he can override precedent and he can make life very difficult for the government. So there's a small chance now that it might not happen too. I don't think anyone's taking it as the most likely outcome.
Marie Harf: [00:11:33] And one outcome you did not mention was another vote another referendum to go back to the people and say you really sure because look how difficult this process has been that is just totally off the table.
Tom Harwood: [00:11:46] No I think that that would be the one I say you no Brexit the route that's part Sarian seem to achieving that is by holding another referendum. Even masses are not even that is on a knife edge because all the polls right now say the country's divided 50/50 down the middle. Some polls say that remains ahead. Some polls say that leads ahead. When you take the aggregate is pretty much 50/50. We haven't really changed our minds from where we are in 2016.
Tom Harwood: [00:12:17] So it's. Well exactly. And so it's not well changing the law is that those European dustmen saying that 50 percent which ultimately comes on the march could be extended if there were another referendum or a general election.
Guy Benson: [00:12:40] TOM HARWOOD last question briefly you mentioned the possibility of this fork in the road moment for the prime minister where she might drive a harder bargain with the EU to try to bring more Brexit fears on board and win a vote or she could go the other way in this and say alright. we're going to give more concessions way if she were to do that would she be cooked as Tory leader at that point within her own party.
Tom Harwood: [00:13:04] Well the problem is you can only hold a confidence within Conservative Party rules once a year because that happened in December. She won't be able to be got rid of her backbenchers for another 11 months so she could decide to sort of throw in the towel. The Labour Party and just view OK my premierships over next December from the moment she will I think is right because remember she's the last of the Conservative Party. And so a lot of the backbenchers of the consent party who sit on the right at the party have very unhappy with her Brexit policy but her domestic agenda how great she was.
Guy Benson: [00:13:42] She was a remainder during the 2016 vote and now she's trying to preside over Brexit which is a thorny and complicated situation as illustrated today by an overwhelming 432 to 202 loss for her deal that she hammered out the biggest loss ever suffered by a sitting government in the history of the House of Commons which is a pretty extraordinary thing Tom Harwood. People can read his work at Guido Fawkes Tom what's your Twitter handle for those interested.
Tom Harwood: [00:14:11] @TomFHF.
Guy Benson: [00:14:14] Oh you just cut out say it one more time.
Marie Harf: [00:14:19] You cut out again. Okay we'll get it far. Let's this today.
Guy Benson: [00:14:46] Thank you