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After tonight's shellacking, for how long more can Theresa May survive?

Her government suffered a monumental defeat.

PastedImage-71146 May cut a disappointed figure in the House of Commons this evening. Source: parliamentlive.tv

THERESA MAY SUFFERED an historically crushing defeat in the House of Commons this evening.

The Brexit deal her government negotiated with the EU was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs, 202 votes to 432 to be exact. A majority of 230.

As Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pointed out in response, it was the worst defeat for a British government in parliament since the 1920s.

Corbyn was actually understating it, tonight’s result was far worse still than those votes from almost a century ago.

Her defeat represents the worst for a government in modern UK political history. Such a defeat would be bad during run-of-the-mill legislation, nevermind one of the most important issues in recent memory.

And this shellacking is particularly sore because of the actions of her party members.

May’s huge defeat isn’t just a product of losing her majority in the disastrous 2017 snap election, it’s also a product of being unable to command to the support of the seats her party did win.

In tonight’s vote, 118 of her Conservative party colleagues voted against her deal. That’s over a third of her parliamentary party and is a new record for the party.

In 1997, 95 Tories voted against John Major’s post-Dunblane gun control legislation. May’s government now holds that dubious record.

But while all that is unprecedented, what is also so is that May will likely survive. For now at least.

Whereas a UK parliamentary defeat would usually precipitate a PM’s resignation or a general election, neither are on the immediate horizon.

Britain Brexit An anti-Brexit demonstrator cries outside of parliament. Source: PA Images

May tomorrow faces a no confidence vote tabled by Labour, but the DUP and the chief Eurosceptics in her party have already said they will support her

It means that in all likelihood she’ll limp on, possibly remaining as Prime Minister as the UK requests an extension of Article 50.

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In that case, it could leave the ball in her court.

Influential Tories are already saying that the next move is to seek more concessions from Europe. Boris Johnson said this evening that the result represents “a massive mandate to go back to Brussels” and renegotiate.

But May knows as well as anyone that the EU is square against watering down the backstop nor renegotiating the deal.

Her choices could then be threefold: a no-deal Brexit, a second vote or a general election.

For May, the first sounds like a nightmare and the latter two would probably be better served with a different leader.

Despite tonight’s thrashing the choice of when to resign is still May’s, but the window is undoubtedly closing.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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