MP Keith Simpson: Theresa May has ‘very little’ authority left
PUBLISHED: 21:08 13 March 2019 | UPDATED: 07:54 14 March 2019
A Norfolk MP has said the prime minister has “very little authority left” after the House of Commons ruled out leaving the EU with no deal.
On Wednesday night MPs voted by a narrow margin to back an amendment tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper rejecting a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances.
They then voted against a no deal Brexit in the government’s motion, where there had been a free vote promised for Tory MPs.
But in a dramatic turn at the last minute the government changed its mind.
Conservative Broadland MP Keith Simpson said: “I had to think carefully how I was going to vote. I was very tempted to vote for the Spelman amendment.”
But Mr Simpson said he had changed his mind after the government had granted a free vote, meaning MPs could vote how they liked, leading him to abstain.
However at the last moment the government put in a pace a three line whip telling MPs to vote against their own motion.
Mr Simpson said: “And they went down to a really big defeat.
“This is very, very bad news and I think the prime minister has very little authority left.
“There are rumours Amber Rudd and other ministers abstained on that final vote.”
Mr Simpson said the situation was “utterly unprecedented”.
He said: “We are in a totally chaotic position and all I would say is this is represents divisions in the country and in my constituency.”
Mr Simpson said it was difficult to see where to go next, he said there was little appetite for neither a second referendum or a general election.
“One of the dangers of all of this is so much of the public are now so cynical about the political process,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mid Norfolk Tory MP George Freeman said: “Collective responsibility was suspended two and a half years ago for the referendum and it was never restored.
“That was one of the implications of the Brexit revolution.”
Mr Freeman said he expected to see a three month extension to Article 50, but said he backed the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) which he called a “customs partnership” rather than a customs union.
He said: “There’s a majority in this house for a sensible Brexit.”
But that “public patience was wearing very thin” and there would need to be a general election before 2022.
He added: “Now it’s up to parliament. I’m absolutely committed to finding a cross party Brexit, if we can do that I think the prime minister will be lauded as a hero in the nation.”