UK Brexit vote set for January 15 amid talk of delay

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A dramatic first day of debate on Theresa May's Brexit plans saw the Prime Minister go down to her second defeat within 24 hours amid furious debate over the impartiality of Commons Speaker John Bercow.

MPs backed an amendment demanding the Government return within three sitting days with a new plan if it is defeated in next week's crunch vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal.

However, as the leader of a minority government and a divided party, the defeat highlights May's weak position, especially as she is due to hold a key vote next week on the Brexit deal she agreed with the European Union in November.

Crucially, MPs will be able to make and vote on amendments to this Brexit Plan B, opening the door for a second referendum to be put to the Commons.

Downing Street played down the impact of the vote, which reduced the time limit for the government to respond from 21 days.

Meanwhile, Business Secretary Greg Clark told the House of Commons that a no-deal Brexit "should not be contemplated".

But the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it would not support the deal unless May dropped a part known as the backstop which is aimed at preventing a hard border between the British province and EU-member Ireland if both sides fail to clinch a future trade deal.

Agata Gostynska-Jakubowska, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said Wednesday's parliamentary vote would do little to change the mood in Brussels regarding Brexit.

The future of Brexit remains deeply uncertain - with options ranging from a disorderly exit from the European Union to another membership referendum - because British lawmakers are expected on January 15 to vote down the deal May struck with the EU in November.

UK Brexit minister Martin Callanan ruled out that prospect and said May would update MPs on Wednesday about the assurances over the backstop she is seeking from the EU.

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Barry Gardiner, the opposition Labour Party's shadow worldwide trade secretary, said earlier his party will table a no confidence motion in the government if - as expected - Parliament votes down Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.

"I disagree with that, and so I think do the vast majority of Members of Parliament".

There are unconfirmed reports that the European Union will convene Europe ministers for an emergency meeting on the day after the vote on the Brexit deal is scheduled to take place.

"I think it probably would have been against the advice of most people on parliamentary procedure".

Justice minister Rory Stewart questioned the basis of Mr Bercow's decision, telling the BBC: "It is a very, very unusual thing that he did".

Angry Tory Brexiteers questioned the Speaker's impartiality over Brexit in heated exchanges.

Tensions rose even further when Andrea Leadsom, the Commons Leader, who has clashed with the Chair before, asked him to publish the advice of the Commons Clerk.

"I am absolutely hopping mad", she said.

Conservative former cabinet minister Ken Clarke earlier said he found it "unbelievable" that some MPs were trying to stop the Commons expressing its opinion on the matter.

Parliament is due to vote on the divorce deal next week.