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Worst defeat ever for May’s Brexit deal

Moment of truth: The prime minister clutches the despatch box as she waits for the result of the Commons vote PICTURES: MARK DUFFY/AP/PA/GETTY

THERESA MAY suffered the worst parliamentary defeat of a government in history last night as her Brexit deal was rejected by 230 votes.

The prime minister saw 432 MPs — including 118 of her own Tory backbenchers — vote against the withdrawal agreement she forged with the EU, with only 202 backing her.

With just 72 days to go until Brexit is due to take effect in March, she vowed to hold talks with all parties to find a way forward.

We be-Leave: Brexiteers outside the Commons

She said: ‘The government will approach these meetings in a constructive spirit, but given the urgent need to make progress, we must focus on ideas that are genuinely negotiable and have sufficient support in this House.’

She said if the meetings yielded any new ideas, she would ‘explore’ them with the EU. But she did not say what she would do if a new solution could not be found.

Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn called a vote of no confidence in the government — to be held today — which will pave the way for a general election if he wins.

Gran-d gesture: A shout-out for Europe

He said it was time ‘incompetent’ Mrs May was ousted because she had failed to deliver more than two-and-a-half years after the referendum.

But the prime minister appears likely to survive the vote after the DUP — which props up her minority regime — confirmed last night it would be supporting her.

Tory MPs are also expected to back her despite many being unhappy with her approach to Brexit. Responding to the humiliating defeat, Mrs May told the Commons: ‘The House has spoken and the government will listen.

It ends in tears: A demonstrator is overwhelmed

‘It is clear that the House does not support this deal. But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support.’ She added: ‘Every day that passes without this issue being resolved means more uncertainty, more bitterness and more rancour.

‘The government has heard what the House has said, but I ask members on all sides to listen to the British people, who want this issue settled, and to work with the government to do just that.’

Mr Corbyn shot back: ‘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.’

Commons purpose: MPs voting in the lobby

He added: ‘I have tabled a motion of no confidence. I am pleased that motion will be debated so this House can give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this government.’

Many opposed to Mrs May’s plans cheered the result.

Hilary Benn, the Labour chairman of the Commons Exiting the European Union Committee, said the defeat was ‘extraordinary and humiliating’.

‘It’s even larger than many of us imagined,’ he said. ‘And it shows it’s a deal with very little support.

‘The PM says she is now going to reach out across the Commons — she could have done that two-and-a-half years ago.

Crest of a wave: Remainer cheers the result

‘I think her authority has been unbelievably damaged by what has happened tonight.’

His party colleague David Lammy, speaking on behalf of the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign, said the result showed it was now time for a second referendum. He was backed by Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, who tweeted: ‘This defeat is beyond what anyone imagined. It is the beginning of the end of Brexit.’

But some Brexiteers argued it was time for the PM to pursue a no-deal.

Former Tory foreign secretary Boris Johnson said he would still prefer a deal and the vote gave the PM a chance to return to the EU for more talks.

Gilets mean it: Leavers brandish their posters

But he added preparations for a no-deal should now be made with ‘ever more enthusiasm’.

Meanwhile, business leaders said they were alarmed by the uncertainty and the growing possibility of a no-deal by default if nothing is agreed.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘There are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience, and growing anger amongst business after two-and-a-half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping.

‘Basic questions on real-world operational issues remain unanswered, and firms find themselves facing the unwelcome prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on March 29.’

Both Leavers and Remainers demonstrated outside parliament before the vote — most of them united in opposition to Mrs May’s plans.

There was cheering from both sides as the result was announced.

Mrs May’s defeat trumps the record 166-vote loss by Ramsay MacDonald’s minority Labour government in 1924.

Along with rebel Tories, all the DUP’s ten MPs also voted against, despite the party having been given £1billion for Northern Ireland in return for keeping Mrs May in power.

Former education secretary Justine Greening, who backs a second referendum, said Mrs May’s deal was ‘dead’. The Tory MP for Putney told Sky: ‘We now need no more procrastination, we need to find out whether there is a consensus in this House for anything.

‘There are only a limited number of options, that does not need to take weeks — you can have those votes in days. We then need to get on and work out, if there is gridlock in this place, then it will have to go back to people.’

A No.10 spokesman said Mrs May hoped to open talks with MPs as ‘swiftly as possible’ once the vote of no confidence was out of the way.

THERESA MAY’S husband and Jeremy Corbyn’s son were among those who packed into the Commons to watch the historic vote. Philip May — who rarely visits parliament — was spotted in the public gallery close to Sally Bercow, who is the wife of Speaker John Bercow. Those cheering on Labour included Seb Corbyn and London mayor Sadiq Khan, who backs calls for a second referendum.