After defeat at home, May to ask EU to move on with Brexit talks

This article is more than 12 months old

LONDON/BRUSSELS British Prime Minister Theresa May will urge European Union leaders to approve an agreement to move Brexit talks on to a second phase, just hours after an embarrassing parliamentary defeat at home that weakens her hand.

At the beginning of a dinner in Brussels, Mrs May was to repeat her case for unlocking talks to unravel more than 40 years of union to allow for the discussion of future trade relations, which she sees as crucial to offering certainty for businesses.

The 27 other EU leaders are all but certain to approve the deal to move to "phase two" today, after Mrs May has left Brussels, launching a new stage of talks that could be hampered by divisions at home and differences with the EU.

In a blow to Mrs May, already weakened after losing her Conservative Party's majority in an election in June, parliament voted on Wednesday in favour of an amendment that requires a meaningful future parliamentary vote on any final Brexit deal.

Up until the last minute of an often bitter debate, Mrs May's team tried to convince lawmakers in her party to block the measure, which the government fears will weaken its hand in Brexit negotiations.

But enough conservatives rebelled to carry it narrowly by 309 votes to 305 in the 650-seat lower house.

"This defeat is a humiliating loss of authority for the government on the eve of the European Council meeting," opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement.

"Theresa May has resisted democratic accountability. Her refusal to listen means she will now have to accept parliament taking back control," he said, co-opting a Brexit slogan.

Divisions have split not only among the governing Conservatives but Labour and the wider country - which voted narrowly for Brexit 18 months ago.