It has been a week in Westminster that will go down in the history books – the week that Theresa May’s Brexit deal was delivered an unheard-of blow, with 432 MPs voting down her plan just 73 days before the UK was set to leave the EU.
With another crucial week in politics just around the corner, Sunday’s newspapers were full to the brim of MPs and ministers keen to have their say on how parliament should break the current Brexit deadlock.
But with reports that a group of MPs are set to table amendments to extend Article 50 in a bid to avoid no-deal, international trade secretary Liam Fox accused some politicians of trying to “steal” the referendum result from voters, saying there was a “leave population and a remain parliament”.
“Parliament has not got the right to hijack the Brexit process because parliament said to the people of this country: ‘We make a contract with you, you will make the decision and we will honour it’,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“What we are now getting is some of those who always absolutely opposed the result of the referendum trying to hijack Brexit and in fact steal the result from the people,” Fox added, saying the effects of going back on the referendum result would be “astronomical”.
It was a sentiment echoed by former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, who appeared on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme to set out his stall against pushing back the date the UK leaves the EU.
“I think whether people voted leave or remain, they want to have this done, they want us to move on and talk about the economy, public services,” he said. “We wont be able to do that until we deliver Brexit, so that’s what we should all focus on.”
Raab – who is considered a contender to become the next Tory leader – also called for more optimism over Brexit.
“I don’t want us to leave on WTO terms, I’d rather we got a deal. But I don’t think we can let the EU hold us hostage and just stubbornly resist all reasonable changes,” the Conservative backbencher said, adding that disruption from a no-deal Brexit would last “three to six months”.
But fellow Tory Nicky Morgan – one of those MPs set to table an amendment to extend Article 50 if a deal has not been reached by the end of February – said it was “very clear” there was no majority in parliament for a no-deal Brexit.
“Ultimately what people really want is stability and certainty – to know where they’re going to go and what’s going to happen on the 29th of March,” she said in an interview with Ridge.
Meanwhile in the Labour Party ranks, MPs were equally divided over Brexit.
First up was Tottenham MP David Lammy – a strong supporter of a so-called people’s vote on Brexit – who said Jeremy Corbyn was putting Labour at risk of a near-fatal split by failing to back a second referendum.
Accusing the Labour leader of “hedging” over a second EU vote, Lammy told Ridge: “Now is the time for leadership. There are a small group in our party who are so frustrated, who have so much grievance, the fear is they are going to go off and form another party.
“I personally reject that,” he continued. “But the danger is, just like 1983, a new party built around a relationship with Europe keeps the Labour Party out of power for a generation.”
There is “no point” tabling more confidence motions in the government, Lammy added. It comes after Corbyn signalled he would continue to seek confidence votes in Theresa May’s party in a bid to force a general election, despite losing a vote 325 to 306 on Wednesday.
But – also appearing on Ridge’s show – shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon continued to call for an election, telling her: “I don’t think the party is going to split.”
Corbyn wants a general election in order to get into power and heal division in the Labour Party, he said.
“We need to bring people together around bread-and-butter issues, but we’re not going to be able to do that if we have a disastrous no-deal Brexit, which is what the prime minister is threatening us with,” Burgon added.
But shadow Brexit secretary Kier Starmer suggested that the Labour leadership could be warming to a second Brexit referendum, saying the party was in the “third phase” of its policy.
“Theresa May knows the verdict on her red lines – she got that verdict loud and clear last Tuesday,” he told Marr.
“If she doesn’t budge from that, we are at a position where we are facing a possible no-deal and therefore a public vote – it was the whole reason we moved our conference policy onto a public vote was to deal with that situation.”