Theresa May suffers biggest defeat in history

Mayday: The prime minister also survived a vote of no confidence on Wednesday.

Who should decide the future of Brexit? This week, Parliament voted down Theresa May’s plan. It was the biggest defeat of any prime minister in history. What happens next? No one knows…

What’s happening

It is two-and-a-half years since the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU). Since then, Prime Minister Theresa May has been talking to politicians in Europe to decide how that will happen. Parliament voted on her plan this week — and 432 MPs rejected it. It was the biggest ever defeat for a prime minister.

Find out more

No one really knows what will happen next. Around 17 million people voted for Brexit in 2016. Only 16 million people voted to stay in the EU. The government has promised to respect that decision.

However, MPs were elected to be the voice of the British people in Parliament. This is how democracy has worked for hundreds of years. Theresa May needs them to approve her plan, but they do not like what she has come up with. However, they do not want to leave without a deal either. They worry that this would cause chaos in Britain.

In other words, Brexit is at an impasse. It is deadlocked. It cannot move forwards. May is powerless without the support of MPs, but MPs cannot agree on what they want.

Who should decide what happens next?

Some say…

Politicians. They should stop arguing with each other and agree on a way forward. If they do not like Theresa May’s Brexit plan, they should work together to find one that they do like instead. That is their job, after all. If they don’t do it soon, they risk plunging Britain into a terrible crisis — and time is quickly running out.

Others think…

The people. If Parliament cannot decide what to do, it is time to go back to ordinary voters and ask if they still want Brexit to happen — and if so, how. This would mean a second referendum, in which everyone who is old enough to vote is allowed an equal say. It was the people who started Brexit in 2016; it should be the people who finish it.

You Decide

  1. Normally, a defeat of this scale would mean the prime minister quits. Theresa May has not done so. Should she?


  1. Write a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May explaining an issue you care about. Include what you would like her to do about it, and why.

Some People Say...

“If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”

Mark Twain

What do you think?

Word Watch

European Union
A group of 28 European countries who share laws and trade. Most also use the same currency.
The place where politicians meet to decide laws.
Members of Parliament; the politicians elected to make laws.
Britain leaving the EU.
The politicians in charge of running the country, including the prime minister.
A situation which cannot move forwards.
A vote which asks everyone in the country to have their say.


PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.