British MPs fail to agree alternative Brexit plan -- live updates

3:08 p.m. ET, March 27, 2019

Boris Johnson may back Theresa May's deal

Word around Westminster is that Boris Johnson is now backing Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal deal.

Conservative Party MP Zac Goldsmith tells CNN:

"Boris is no fan of the deal, but he recognises as we all must that the choice is now clear. It’s this deal or it’s years of paralysis, division, chaos and ultimately the slow death of Brexit. His intervention might just be the thing that rescues Brexit."

Having Johnson, the most prominent Conservative Leave campaigner and staunch critic of the deal (Johnson resigned from the cabinet over May's Brexit plans) might just be enough to get the deal over line, should it come back to the House of Commons this week. This is a big win for May.

Another Conservative MP, Conor Burns, also tweeted that Johnson was "absolutely right telling MPs that palpable risk of losing Brexit altogether with the chance of change in the next phase means we have little choice but to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement."

2:59 p.m. ET, March 27, 2019

When might Theresa May go?

All talk in London has shifted from parliament taking control of the Brexit process to Theresa May's exit.

When she steps down as Prime Minister all depends on what happens before the end of this week.

May's statement to backbench MPs made it clear that her departure was contingent on her Brexit deal passing the Commons this week. It's worth remembering that the EU set that deadline.

If May can get the deal approved before March 29, then we enter the implementation period as outlined in the Withdrawal Agreement on May 22. It's not yet known when the next phase of Brexit talks would begin, but May will go before that happens.

An event being talked about is the G20 summit in Japan, commencing on June 28. It's unlikely – though not impossible – that a new prime minister would be installed before that date. So if a Conservative leadership contest kicks off at the start of July, we could reasonably expect a new prime minister by middle or late July.

But what if the deal doesn't pass? In that event, the UK needs to inform the EU if it intends to take part in the EU Parliamentary elections. May has said that she did not want to have the UK stand in these elections. So it's probable that in this event, she would depart from office on or around that date.

If the UK decided not to stand in these elections, then May's deal hasn't passed and she doesn't have to make this concession. So based on her statement to MPs, she could claim that it's fine her to stay on. But her position would be untenable and it's hard to see how, in light of her deal failing and the UK crashing towards a no-deal Brexit that she clearly doesn't favor, she could stomach staying on.

3:01 p.m. ET, March 27, 2019

HAPPENING NOW: MPs vote on what type of Brexit they want

Lawmakers are voting on eight non-binding votes on alternative Brexit options.

Instead of the usual divisions where MPs head to lobbies to cast their votes, they will be given paper ballots to vote on all the options simultaneously.

Results are expected to be announced by the Speaker of the House John Bercow sometime after 9 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET).

4:45 p.m. ET, March 27, 2019

May's Brexit is not about "principles or the public interest," Jeremy Corbyn tweets

The leader of the UK's main opposition party, Jeremy Corbyn has tweeted in response to the news that Theresa May will step down if Conservative MPs back her Withdrawal Agreement.

"Theresa May's pledge to Tory MPs to stand down if they vote for her deal shows once and for all that her chaotic Brexit negotiations have been about party management, not principles or the public interest," the Labour leader tweeted.

4:45 p.m. ET, March 27, 2019

Jacob Rees-Mogg will back May's deal if "DUP abstain"

Arch-Brexiteer and chair of the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) Jacob Rees-Mogg says that if Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) abstained from a vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal deal, he would feel compelled to back it.

Speaking to the UK Press Association agency, Mogg said that if the DUP were against May's deal, he would not back it.

Reacting to the Prime Minister's decision to step down before the next phase of Brexit negotiations begins, Mogg described it as "right and proper."

The ERG is a group of Conservative MPs who favor a clean break from the European Union and whose members have previously voiced deep concern about May’s negotiating strategy. 

MP Jacob Rees-Mogg pictured on March 27.
MP Jacob Rees-Mogg pictured on March 27. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

4:45 p.m. ET, March 27, 2019

Theresa May’s decision puts "national interest ahead of personal"

While not everyone is thrilled with Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to step down after her Brexit withdrawal deal is delivered, other lawmakers have praised her.

Labour's Peter Kyle slammed any MP who saw the new job opening as an opportunity.

"MPs owe it to future generations to vote on the deal with them in mind, not based on whether the PM will be in office a few days fewer. t's unimaginable that people are gambling with our economy in the hope it helps their chances of a promotion. It's sickening," Kyle wrote on Twitter.

While others called May's address a "commanding brave speech" and that she had spoken with "remarkable dignity."

2:05 p.m. ET, March 27, 2019

Why has Theresa May done this?

Yesterday, we speculated, that there was a potential path for Theresa May to get her deal through UK parliament: get her hardliners on board; offer something for the softer Brexiteers; offer her head if the deal goes through.

While nothing is certain yet, telling MPs that she will stand down and not lead the next phase of Brexit suggests that the pieces are in place for one final go at passing her twice-defeated Withdrawal Agreement.

It's worth noting that the task is still gargantuan, as she needs to flip 75 MPs to turnover her loss of 149 two weeks ago.

It should also be noted that the wording here is quite specific: "I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and I won’t stand in the way of that."

Getting to that second phase is now the key question.

As one source close to the PM told me after the news dropped: "She has always put the national interest above her personal interest. If this is the price to be paid for delivering Brexit, it’s a price she’s prepared to pay."

1:58 p.m. ET, March 27, 2019

What Theresa May told MPs this evening

Downing Street has released excerpts of what Prime Minister Theresa May told Conservative MPs this evening.

You can read what she said here:

“This has been a testing time for our country and our party. We’re nearly there. We’re almost ready to start a new chapter and build that brighter future.
“But before we can do that, we have to finish the job in hand. As I say, I don’t tour the bars and engage in the gossip – but I do make time to speak to colleagues, and I have a great team in the Whips' Office. I also have two excellent PPSs.
“And I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and I won’t stand in the way of that. 
“I know some people are worried that if you vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush on into phase two without the debate we need to have. I won’t – I hear what you are saying.
“But we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit. 
[…]
“I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.
“I ask everyone in this room to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty – to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit.
4:44 p.m. ET, March 27, 2019

Theresa May was "was passionate but not emotional"

CNN's Bianca Nobilo is inside the House of Parliament in Westminster, where Conservative MP, Simon Hart, has gone into more detail about what happened inside the meeting.

“She has said that she will not stay through to the next phase of negotiations. If they back the deal she will go.

“No timescale was talked about or given. The implication was if she gets her deal through that will kick start the process to find a new leader almost immediately. It was a respectful atmosphere. She was as animated as I’d ever seen her at committee. She was passionate but not emotional. We are all traumatized at this point by these negotiations.”