'MPs seeking to take steps to prevent a no-deal Brexit have lost a Commons vote by 309 votes to 298 – a majority of 11 – in a boost to Conservative leadership contenders such as Boris Johnson who are hoping to force the UK’s exit from the EU by 31 October.
The cross-party motion would have given MPs time to begin to pass legislation that may have significantly constrained a future prime minister, but Labour sources said they feared would-be Tory rebels had preferred to hold their fire until they see which candidate was installed.
The vote followed a debate in the House of Commons led by the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, who urged MPs to back the cross-party effort, calling it a “safety valve”, so MPs can begin legislation to stop a new prime minister suspending parliament.
Speaking before the crunch vote on giving MPs control of the parliamentary agenda on 25 June, Starmer said MPs had to seize the opportunity to grant themselves time to stop a no-deal Brexit.
The motion proposed giving MPs control of the parliamentary agenda in a fortnight’s time. That day could then potentially be used to begin legislation to prevent the UK from leaving the EU without a deal – though it is still uncertain what form that would take.
Starmer said MPs were forced to act because of suggestions from leadership candidates including Johnson and Dominic Raab that the UK will leave – come what may – on 31 October, with Raab even suggesting he would be prepared to prorogue parliament to stop MPs efforts to thwart no deal.
“If the next prime minister is foolish enough to try to pursue a no-deal Brexit without gaining the consent of this house, or to try to prorogue parliament in order to force through no deal, then parliament will have the means to prevent that,” he told MPs.
“It will introduce a safety valve in the Brexit process and it will be a reminder to all Conservative leadership candidates that this house will take every step necessary to prevent a no deal.”
The motion, which Labour tabled during Wednesday’s opposition day debate, has the backing of the former Conservative minister Oliver Letwin and the leaders of the Scottish National party, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.'
Read more: MPs defeat motion seeking to block no-deal Brexit
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