British MPs Take Commons Control to Address Brexit

LONDON - British MPs have voted to take control of Commons business in an unprecedented move to try to find a majority for any Brexit option.

The government was defeated by 329 votes to 302 on the cross-party amendment setting up a series of votes to find out what kind of Brexit has most support among MPs. Prime Minister Theresa May has said there is no guarantee she will abide by their wish.

Thirty Tory MPs voted against the government, including three ministers. Richard Harrington, Alistair Burt and Steve Brine resigned to join the rebels, with Harrington accusing the government of "playing roulette with the lives and livelihoods" of Britons.

May had tried to head off a defeat by offering MPs a series of votes on Brexit alternatives, organised by the government. She said allowing MPs to take over the Commons agenda would set an "unwelcome precedent".

But supporters of Conservative backbencher Sir Oliver Letwin's amendment said they did not trust the government to give MPs a say on the full range of Brexit options.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among them. He said the government "must take the process seriously". He added: "The government has failed and this House must, and I believe will, succeed." He said MPs would want to find a consensus on the way forward, including a possible "confirmatory vote" on the prime minister's deal by the public - something May told MPs earlier she did not want because Remain would be on the ballot paper.

In a series of so-called indicative votes, MPs will be able to vote on a number of options - likely to include a "softer Brexit", a customs union with the EU and another referendum - designed to test the will of Parliament to see what, if anything, commands a majority.

But the precise format of the votes and how they will work was not set out in the amendment. And the prime minister said she was "sceptical" about the process - as it was not guaranteed to produce a majority for any one course of action - and she would not commit the government to abiding by the result. "The votes could lead to an outcome that is un-negotiable with the EU," she told MPs.
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