British MPs have begun to debate a motion of no confidence in Theresa May’s government, after her Brexit deal was rejected. Labour launched the bid to trigger a general election after the deal setting out the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU was rejected by 230 votes.
However, one senior party figure has suggested it is unlikely to succeed, with Northern Ireland’s DUP and Tory rebels saying they will back the PM.
The confidence vote is expected to be held at about 19:00 GMT.
Mrs May told MPs she will return to the Commons with an alternative plan next week, provided she survives the confidence vote.
At Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions she said she would listen to “the views of the House” in order to “identify what could command the support of this House”.
“There are actually two ways of avoiding no deal,” Mrs May told MPs.
“The first is to agree a deal. The second to revoke Article 50 – that would mean staying in the European Union, failing to respect the result of the referendum, and that is something that this government would not do.”
But Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said the prime minister was “in denial” over Tuesday night’s vote and she “needs to come up with something different”.
Opening the confidence debate he said that “if a government cannot get its legislation through Parliament, it must go to the country”, adding that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act “was never intended to prop up a zombie government”.
And SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the rejection of Mrs May’s deal had been the “last straw” and the “only way forward” was to extend Article 50 and legislate for a “people’s vote” – which the prime minister has said will not happen.
What happens next?
MPs have begun to debate the confidence motion, which is expected to last about six hours, with Mr Corbyn saying it would allow them to give their verdict on “the sheer incompetence of this government”.
BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says that if the prime minister sees off the challenge, she will begin a series of meetings with “senior Parliamentarians” on Thursday.
He said Mrs May intended to retain her “red lines” – ruling out Labour’s demand for a customs union with the EU – with sources suggesting compromising on this would risk cabinet resignations.
Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom told the BBC the government was clear that it will not delay or revoke Article 50, although Chancellor Philip Hammond reportedly suggested delaying Brexit in a conference call on Tuesday evening.
But first the prime minister must survive the confidence vote tabled by Mr Corbyn and backed by MPs from the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Green Party.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC that they were expected to lose the vote and he hoped “proper negotiation and discussions” about Brexit would follow.
But he said Mr Corbyn had yet not been contacted for discussions with Mrs May.
Despite the government’s heavy loss in the Brexit vote, Conservative rebels are likely to come back on-side in the confidence vote.
Leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson said the huge defeat gave the PM a “massive mandate to go back to Brussels” to negotiate a better deal.
And DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds told the BBC his party would be backing the government in the confidence vote as it still had the opportunity to deliver on the referendum result.
He said the backstop “was clearly the problem” and if that “can be sorted out” then his party and others against Mrs May’s deal “can be brought back on board”.
How does a no confidence motion work?
By the BBC’s head of political research Peter Barnes
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, UK general elections are only supposed to happen every five years. The next one is due in 2022.
But a vote of no confidence lets MPs decide on whether they want the government to continue. The motion must be worded: “That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.”
If a majority of MPs vote for the motion then it starts a 14-day countdown.
If during that time the current government, or any other alternative government cannot win a new vote of confidence, then an early general election would be called.
That election cannot happen for at least 25 working days. BBC News