Theresa May is 'in office but not in power' after bruising Commons defeats which leave her career on the brink

The PM is on course to lose next week's parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal, a blow which could force her out of power.

Last night the Government suffered the worst Commons defeat for 40 years – losing three crucial votes within the space of an hour.

In an unprecedented move, ministers were judged to be in contempt of Parliament for refusing to release legal advice on Brexit.

And Mrs May also saw MPs vote to give themselves the right to decide what happens if her deal is voted down.

The Government's failure to see off the triple challenge suggests Mrs May can no longer command a majority in Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn accused the PM of being "in office but not in power" – as was said of John Major before he lost the 1997 election in a landslide.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer added: "By treating Parliament with contempt, the Government has proved it has lost its majority and the respect of the House."

And Lib Dem Layla Moran said last night: "The Government at the moment cannot even run a bath let alone anything else.

"The Prime Minister might remain in office but tonight she is out of power."


After last year's disastrous snap election, Mrs May was left leading a minority Government.

She could only win a majority in the Commons as long as nearly all Tory MPs backed her, as well as the 10 DUP MPs.

But her Brexit plans have alienated dozens of Eurosceptic backbenchers.

And the DUP are so furious with suggestions that the withdrawal agreement will put a border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

That makes it almost impossible for the PM to cobble together a majority on Brexit – and very tricky to win votes on other issues too.


As many as 100 Tory backbenchers have said they won't back Mrs May when the withdrawal agreement comes up for a vote on Tuesday.

With the DUP voting against, the PM would need to attract support from a large minority of Labour MPs to have any hope of winning.

Right now, it looks like Mrs May is on course for a heavy defeat in the Commons next week.

To win, dozens of MPs from both main parties would have to change their minds over the coming days.

Without any drastic changes to the deal, it's hard to see why so many rebels would fall in line at the last minute.


There's an EU summit in Brussels starting next Thursday – just two days after the Commons vote.

If the PM has lost, she is likely to ask European leaders for tweaks to the withdrawal agreement.

She will demand a way of Britain leaving the hated "Irish backstop" without getting trapped in the EU customs union indefinitely.

Mrs May could then return to the Commons and try to win the vote the second time around.

Alternatively, she could pivot to a "Norway-style Brexit" – leaving Britain in the sngle market but taking us out of the customs union.

That option is supported by senior Tories, but would be controversial because it would keep the UK's borders open.

Otherwise, the country will be on the path to No Deal – unless Remainers force a second referendum on Brexit.


If the PM is defeated by a margin of more than 150, she will be under intense pressure to resign.

She would then continue as acting PM until a new Tory leader is elected by members – or be replaced by another interim leader, probably her no2 David Lidington.

Even if she wanted to stay at No10, she could face challenges from inside or outside the Tory party.

Rebellious MPs could succeed in getting the 48 letters they need for a vote on whether she can continue as party leader.

And Labour would launch a confidence vote in the Commons – which Mrs May would lose if the DUP sided with Jeremy Corbyn to force her out, triggering a snap General Election.

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