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Norfolk Tory MPs back Theresa May's deal in vain as Brexit set for long delay after PM suffers another defeat

PUBLISHED: 15:29 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:31 29 March 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons during a Brexit debate. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons during a Brexit debate. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire

Two of Norfolk's MPs spent their birthdays in the House of Commons, to vote for a third time on a Brexit deal which was again defeated.

Keith Simpson, Conservative MP for Broadland, and Sir Henry Bellingham, Conservative MP for North West Norfolk, both voted for Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement on Friday afternoon.

The house does not usually sit on a Friday but MPs had been called in to vote on the agreement, on the day Mr Simpson turned 70 and Sir Henry turned 64.

In dramatic scenes in the House of Commons, MPs voted by 344 to 286 against the deal as hundreds of protesters staged a noisy demonstration outside on the day when the UK was due to leave the European Union.

The result of the crunch vote means that the UK has missed an EU deadline to secure an extension of the Brexit process and leave with a deal on May 22.

Broadland Norfolk Conservative MP Keith Simpson Photo: UK ParliamentBroadland Norfolk Conservative MP Keith Simpson Photo: UK Parliament

Mrs May now has until April 12 to go back to Brussels with new proposals and seek a longer extension to the negotiation process, or see the UK leave without a deal that day.

With a clear majority in the Commons against no-deal, and with MPs once more seizing control of the timetable on Monday, Mrs May said that the UK would have to find “an alternative way forward”.

This was “almost certain” to involve the UK having to stage elections to the European Parliament in May, she said.

Mrs May said that the outcome was “a matter of profound regret”.

North West Norfolk Conservative MP Sir Henry Bellingham Photo: UK ParliamentNorth West Norfolk Conservative MP Sir Henry Bellingham Photo: UK Parliament

Mr Simpson said: “We’re no further forward, and it’s taken away more of the limited authority Theresa May has got as prime minister.”

He said there were some significant changes in heart from members of the European Research Group who Mr Simpson said performed a “hand brake U-turn on the motorway because they are very concerned we could never leave”.

But that had not been enough

And amid speculation over who would take over from Mrs May when she stands down, he joked he was “still too young” to lead the Conservative Party.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a general election unless the prime minister was willing to find an alternative deal.

And Mrs May - who had promised to step down as prime minister if her deal was approved - appeared to hint that this was a possibility, telling MPs: “I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this house.”

She said: “This house has rejected no deal. It has rejected no Brexit. On Wednesday it rejected all the variations of the deal on the table.

“And today it has rejected approving the withdrawal agreement alone and continuing a process on the future.

“This government will continue to press the case for the orderly Brexit that the result of the referendum demands.”

Mr Corbyn told MPs: “The house has been clear this deal now has to change, there has to be an alternative found.

“And if the prime minister can’t accept that then she must go - not at an indeterminate date in the future but now, so that we can decide the future of this country through a general election.”

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