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Theresa May meets other party leaders and reaffirms her 'duty to deliver Brexit'

May spoke from Downing Street after her government survived a vote of no confidence.

May in Downing Street tonight.
May in Downing Street tonight.
Image: Yui Mok/PA Images

Updated Jan 16th 2019, 10:34 PM

UK PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has delivered a nighttime Downing Street speech, saying it is her duty to deliver Brexit. 

May’s address was carried live on BBC, Sky News and ITV at 10pm, three hours after her government survived a motion of no confidence in the House of Commons.  

The motion of no confidence was tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn but it was defeated by 306 votes to 325, a majority of 19.

In her address, May said this result allowed her government to “focus on finding a way forward on Brexit.”

She also acknowledged that the British public is becoming increasingly concerned about the Brexit deadlock.

“I understand that to people getting on with their lives away from Westminster, the events of the past 24 hours will have been unsettling,” she said.

Overwhelmingly, the British people want us to get on with delivering Brexit and also address the other important issues they care about but the deal which I have worked to agree with the European Union was rejected by MPs and by a large margin.

“I believe it is my duty to deliver on the British people’s instruction to leave the European Union and I intend to do so.”

May also outlined that she wants to work with other parties in parliament to plot a way forward.

“So now that MPs have made clear what they don’t want, we must all work constructively together to set out what parliament does want,” May said.

“That’s why I’m inviting MPs from all parties to come together to find a way forward. One that both delivers on the referendum and can command the support of parliament, this is now the time to put self-interest aside.”

I have just held constructive meetings with the leader of the Liberal Democrats and the Westminster leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru. From tomorrow, meetings will be taking place between senior government representatives, including myself, and groups of MPs who represent the widest possible views from across parliament. Including our confidence and supply partners the Democratic Unionist Party.

“I am disappointed that the leader of the Labour party has so far chosen not to take part, but our door remains open. It will not be an easy task, but MPs know they have a duty to act in the national interest, reach a consensus and get this done,” May added. 

Speaking earlier in the House of Commons when May first spoke about involving other party leaders, Corbyn said that she must first rule out a no-deal Brexit before he takes part.

“The government must remove, clearly, once and for all the prospect of a no-deal Brexit from the EU and all the chaos that would come from that,” Corbyn said. 

Speaking before Corbyn in the Commons, May said that she was “pleased that this house has expressed its confidence in the government”. 

PastedImage-51377 May in the House of Commons earlier. Source: parliament.tv

The motion of no confidence was tabled after the UK government was roundly defeated in the vote on May’s proposed Brexit Withdrawal Agreement last night.

In last night’s vote, May lost by 230 votes after a third of her Conservative Party’s MPs voted against her deal, but in tonight’s vote the Tory rebels backed her. 

May also regained the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs who back her government as part of a confidence and supply agreement.

The DUP voted en masse against the Withdrawal Agreement but party leader Arlene Foster confirmed last night that they would back May in tonight’s confidence vote.

The DUP’s Nigel Dodds MP said after the vote that it demonstrated the importance of the confidence and supply arrangement. 

Contingency plans

Meanwhile in Dublin at tonight’s Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the government will continue to hold their position and nerve in relation to Brexit.

The Fine Gael leader said we should have a better indication of the UK’s position by next Monday.

He said contingency planning is now being implemented and encouraged all businesses to engage with it.

The Taoiseach added the government does have authorisation to use public funds to help industry sectors that are left exposed if a hard Brexit occurred.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said European leaders have made it clear they will not facilitate a change to the Withdrawal Agreement and the EU will respond as a collective when the UK’s position is clearer.

After last night’s defeat, May is required to present some form of plan B to the Commons by Monday.

Since 1900 there have been only three occasions when a government has lost a vote of confidence – twice in 1924 and once in 1979. The last time a confidence motion was formally tabled in the Commons was in 1993.

Then, too, it was due to a row over Europe and Conservative prime minister John Major won by 40 votes.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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Rónán Duffy

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