British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence in Parliament Wednesday as her Conservative Party stuck together to push back an effort to oust the government -- despite May’s colossal Brexit defeat a day earlier.
The House of Commons voted 325-306 in favor of the government and against the motion, as Conservative MPs and coalition allies The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) stood together and fended off Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s push for an eventual general election.
"I am pleased that this House has expressed its confidence in the government tonight," she said in Parliament moments after the result was announced. "I do not take this responsibility lightly and my government will continue its work to increase its prosperity, guarantee our security and to strengthen our union. And yes, we will also continue to work to deliver on the solemn promise we made to the people of this country to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union."
"I believe this duty is shared by every member of this House and we have a responsibility to identify a way forward that can secure the backing of the House," she said, inviting opposition leaders to meet with her individually, beginning as soon as Wednesday night.
Later, in an address outside 10 Downing Street, she said that those talks had begun, but that she was disappointed that opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had chosen so far not to take part.
"Our door is always open," she said.
The no-confidence vote came a day after May’s Brexit deal, negotiated with E.U. leaders, was voted down 432-202, the largest defeat for a sitting government in the history of the House of Commons. May had been expected to lose, but the enormous defeat marked a significant blow to her already-troubled time as leader. Her withdrawal agreement both opposition from the anti-Brexit forces and pro-Brexit forces, who saw the agreement as not delivering a clean break with the E.U.
The defeat on Tuesday immediately led to Corbyn tabling a motion of no confidence in the government. Earlier Wednesday, he formally moved the motion. Ahead of the vote, Tories had used debate time to paint Corbyn, a staunch left-winger, as unsuitable for office in part because of past controversial statements and actions.
It is May's second confidence vote in a month. Last month she faced a vote of no-confidence from within her Conservative Party in her leadership of the party. She narrowly won that vote 200-117 and cannot be challenged by the party until December 2019.
But while May's future is secure for now, the future for Brexit is still extremely uncertain. Britain is scheduled to leave the bloc on March 29, at the moment without a withdrawal agreement with the E.U. While some on the pro-Brexit wing have argued that Britain would simply revert to World Trade Organization terms, others in the government and in the opposition have predicted chaos at ports and across the country should that occur.
May said she wanted to engage in cross-party talks in a constructive way to find a Brexit proposal that could command the support of the Commons, and said she would make a statement about the next steps for Brexit on Monday.
Corbyn said after the vote that before there could be any other discussions, "the government must remove clearly, once-and-for-all, the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit from the E.U. and the chaos that would come as a result of that."
Many of those who were in favor of remaining in the E.U. during the 2016 referendum have intensified calls for Britain's departure to be at least delayed via the extension of Article 50 -- the trigger by which Britain's departure was set in motion -- and even canceled via the process of a second referendum.
"Firstly, and most urgently, the clock must be stopped on the Article 50 process,” Scottish National Party leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC. “This is the only way to avoid any possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU on 29 March without a deal.”
"Secondly, legislation must be brought forward to put this issue back to the electorate in another referendum,” she said.
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said in a statement that the vote marked "the beginning of the end of Brexit."
"With Parliament in deadlock, it is time to go back to the public," he said, a reference to calls for a second referendum.
These calls are likely to only fuel fears of a Brexit betrayal by “Brexiteers,” and a trend seen by Eurosceptics in which countries are made to vote again and again on a Europe issue until they vote the “right” way as determined by pro-European leaders. Steve Hilton, a former strategist for Prime Minister David Cameron, wrote in an op-ed for Fox News earlier Wednesday that "there is no majority in parliament for any particular version of Brexit."
"But there is a majority, which includes representatives from both main parties, to stay in the E.U. And so we can expect a group of legislators to try and delay, and then overturn Brexit."
The pro-Brexit U.K. Independence Party said that the failure of the no-confidence motion "has moved the establishment to the next stage of their plan to stop Brexit - openly calling on the government to suspend Article 50 and end Brexit."
May ruled out revoking Article 50 earlier Wednesday, although she didn’t directly address the idea of delaying it.
“[Revoking Article 50] would mean staying in the European Union, failing to respect the results of the referendum and that is something that this government will not do,” she said, to cheers from her backbenchers.
On Wednesday night, she called on all parties to come together and deliver on the 2016 result, an apparent acknowledgment of the growing push for a Brexit reversal.
“In a historic vote in 2016, the country decided to leave the E.U.," she said outside 10 Downing Street. "In 2017, 80 percent of people voted for parties that stood on manifestos promising to respect that result. Now, over two years and half years later, it’s time for us to come together, put the national interest first and deliver on the referendum.”