Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has tabled a motion of no confidence in ‘obdurate’ Prime Minister Theresa May, after she delayed the vote on the Brexit deal.
The opposition leader stopped short of calling a vote of no confidence in the government, underlining the complexity of certain parliamentary processes. A no confidence vote in an individual, rather than government, is not automatically guaranteed debating time in parliament and is non-binding.
If Corbyn had called a binding confidence vote in the government and won, it would have triggered a general election if the Conservatives were unable to form a new administration within a fortnight.
The move follows May’s decision to delay the crucial vote on her now-seemingly doomed Brexit deal until January 14. Corbyn questioned the delay, given how the Brexit deadline is looming.
He said: ‘It’s very clear that it’s bad, unacceptable that we should be waiting almost a month before we have a meaningful vote on the crucial issue facing the future of this country.
‘The prime minister has obdurately refused to ensure a vote took place on the date she agreed, she refuses to allow a vote to take place this week and is now, I assume, thinking the vote will be on January 14 – almost a month away.
‘This is unacceptable in any way whatsoever.
‘So, as the only way I can think of ensuring a vote takes place this week, I’m about to table a motion which says the following: "That this House has no confidence in the prime minister due to her failure to allow the House of Commons to have a meaningful vote straight away on the withdrawal agreement and framework for future relationships between the UK and European Union."’
May has hit back, saying the government will only allocate time for debates on the issue if Corbyn tables a vote of no confidence in the government, rather than just her.
Whether Corbyn’s call proves a prescient move remains to be seen. Will the focus on May really apply additional pressure on the embattled prime minister, given her recent no-confidence vote, or was it a weak call, when he could have gone toe to toe with the government?
Corbyn has been consistently evasive on his views on Brexit, so some would argue that his criticism of May’s deal, coming so late in the day, reeks of opportunism. No-one knows what alternative either he or his equally divided party is offering.
Either way, it is clear that the country is hideously riven down the middle and potentially on the brink of an unprecedented constitutional crisis come March.