Theresa May narrowly survives no-confidence vote after Brexit defeat; reaches out to rivals

London: British Prime Minister Theresa May reached out to opposition parties to “constructively” work together on a new Brexit plan as she narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament, a day after her divisive divorce deal with the EU was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs.

PM May won Parliament’s first no-confidence vote in a British government in 26 years by 325 votes to 306, a majority of 19, on Wednesday.

The 62-year-old May said the government has won the confidence of Parliament. This now gives “us all the opportunity to focus on finding a way forward on Brexit”, she said. May promised to return to Parliament on Monday with an alternative Brexit strategy devised through talks with the opposition.

“Overwhelmingly, the British people want us to get on with delivering Brexit, and also address the other important issues they care about,” the Conservative leader said.

This is now the time to put “self-interest aside”, May said. “Now that MPs have made it clear what they don’t want, we must all work constructively together to set out what Parliament does want.

“That’s why I am inviting MPs from all parties to come together to find a way forward. One that both delivers on the referendum and can command the support of Parliament,” she said.

May said she believes it was her duty to deliver on the British people’s instruction to leave the European Union (EU). “And I intend to do so,” May said in a televised interview after winning the vote of no confidence.

Earlier, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that May’s “zombie” administration had lost the right to govern during a six hour debate on his motion. His party has not ruled out tabling further no-confidence motions.

After her victory, May told MPs that she would “continue to work to deliver on the solemn promise to the people of this country to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union”.

She invited leaders of all parties to have individual meetings with her on the way ahead for Brexit, starting Thursday night, but called on them to approach them with a “constructive spirit”. “We must find solutions that are negotiable and command sufficient support in this House,” May said.

During her address, the prime minister said she has held “constructive” meetings and will be meeting MPs along with senior government officials in the coming days.

May also reiterated a promise to return to the Commons on Monday to give MPs another vote on her plans.

“The House has put its confidence in this government. I stand ready to work with any member of this House to deliver Brexit and ensure that this House retains the confidence of the British people,” she said in the House of Commons.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government, also voted to keep her administration in power despite their strong opposition to the Brexit deal.

May’s divorce deal to leave the EU was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs Tuesday, triggering a no-confidence motion against her government and leaving the country with no plans for Brexit on March 29.

Her bid to get the Withdrawal Agreement, struck between London and Brussels, was rejected by 432 votes to 202 – a majority of 230, the biggest defeat ever suffered by a British premier in modern history.

Within minutes after the defeat, the biggest for a sitting British government in history, opposition leader Corbyn’s Labour party moved a motion of no-confidence against the May government.

Britain is set to exit the 28-member EU, which it joined in 1973, on March 29. With just over two months to go until the scheduled departure, Britain is still undecided on what to do.

May has spent two years negotiating the divorce plan aimed at bringing about an orderly Brexit and setting up a 21- month transition period to negotiate a free-trade deal with Brussels.

Her deal included both the withdrawal agreement on the terms on which the UK leaves the EU and a political declaration for the future relationship. May survived a no-confidence vote by her own Conservative Party in December.

(With inputs from PTI)

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