British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly yesterday evening to reject the European Union (EU) divorce deal struck between London and Brussels, in a historic vote that leaves Brexit hanging in the balance.
The Members of Parliament (MPs) in parliament’s lower House of Commons voted by 432 to 202 to reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s agreement with the EU.
“The house has spoken and the government will listen,” May said, immediately after the vote. It is clear that the house does not support this deal but tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support. Nothing about how, or even if, it intends to honour the decision” taken by the British people to leave the European Union, she said.
Thousands of people’s vote supporters let out a roar in Parliament Square as big screens broadcast the thumping defeat of Theresa May’s deal to leave the EU.
A second cheer went up when Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, announced he had tabled a vote of no confidence in the government.
Crowds had stood in the cold on Tuesday evening listening to MPs, actors, doctors and representatives of youth and community groups as they outlined why the government must return to the people for a second referendum on leaving the EU.
In a rousing speech David Lammy, the Labour MP and pro-European figurehead, had raised the spectre of racism and May’s hostile environment immigration regime as he condemned the entire move towards leaving the bloc.
“This is not a deal that gains sovereignty; it’s a deal that gives up sovereignty, and that’s why parliament will reject it,” he said. “This is not a deal that opens us up to the world; this is a deal that will make us subservient to Donald Trump’s USA, and that’s why we reject it. This is a deal that harks back to those days of empire when people were shackled and … black and brown people were subjugated.”
He added: “We reject this small-minded vision of our country, that would create a hostile environment for our friends from the European Union and charge them for the right to live alongside their partners, their children, their loved ones and their friends – we reject that.”
Despite the cheering, after the vote people in the crowd remained pessimistic for the chances of a second referendum.
Zoe Evangelinidis, an EU national who lives in Westminster, said she was happy but still uncertain about her future. “We’re hoping that eventually the people’s vote gains speed and that essentially Britain stays as part of the EU,” she said.
The rally followed an afternoon of protest around Westminster, in which sawpeople’s vote and no-deal Brexit supporters stood side-by-side to oppose May’s deal.
Hundreds of remainers had stood on the patch of grass at the back of Westminster Abbey. Among them was Alex Kay, 60, the mayor of Bradford-on-Avon.
Standing with two friends, she said she hoped Tuesday night’s vote on whether to accept the deal would be “the beginning of the end of Brexit”.
“Listen to the British people, who want this issue settled,” said May.