Government suffers defeat during debate on the finance bill in the Commons
'Theresa May faces a concerted campaign of parliamentary warfare from a powerful cross-party alliance of MPs determined to use every lever at their disposal to prevent Britain leaving the EU without a deal in March.
The former staunch loyalist Sir Oliver Letwin signalled that he and other senior Conservatives would defy party whips, repeatedly if necessary, to avoid a no-deal Brexit, as the government suffered a humiliating defeat during a debate on the finance bill in the Commons.
Letwin and 16 other former government ministers were among 20 Conservatives who banded together with the home affairs select committee chair, Yvette Cooper, and the Labour leadership to pass an anti no-deal amendment.
They defeated the government by 303 votes to 296 – a majority of seven – making May the first prime minister in 41 years to lose a vote on a government finance bill.
The move came after the PM conceded to senior ministers she was on course to lose next week’s historic Brexit vote, as the first cabinet meeting of the new year exposed deep divisions about the best way out of the deadlock.
May told her cabinet she would respond swiftly with a statement to the House of Commons if she failed to win MPs’ backing for her deal next Tuesday. But cabinet sources said it was unclear what course she planned to take – and the general mood was of how “boxed in” the government was.'
Read more: Cross-party alliance of MPs tells May: we will stop no-deal Brexit