Tory MPs and ministers staged a massive revolt today to block the next prime minister from suspending Parliament and forcing through a no-deal Brexit.
Seventeen Conservatives defied a three-line whip – including a senior minister, Margot James, who later resigned.
About 30 ministers did not vote, including Justice Secretary David Gauke, who earlier said suspending parliament would be “outrageous”.
Theresa May’s wafer-thin working majority of four was pulverised – and the rebel amendment was passed by 315 votes to 274 – a thumping defeat for the Government by 41.
Other ministers who appeared to have been absent were Chancellor Philip Hammond, former leadership contender Rory Stewart, the International Development Secretary and Business Secretary Greg Clark. Some had permission to be away from the whips, including leadership contender Jeremy Hunt and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley.
Although Mrs May used the weight of the whips office to discourage the rebels, she was not the target of the cross-party alliance who united behind the vote. Instead it was aimed at her likely successor Mr Johnson after hints that he would crash Britain out of the European Union on October 31 by proroguing – suspending – the Commons and denying MPs their say.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Clean Energy Minister Claire Perry both voted with the Government, despite being against no-deal.
Tory MPs who rebelled to support the rebel amendment, tabled by Labour’s Hilary Benn were: Guto Bebb (Aberconwy), Steve Brine (Winchester), Alistair Burt (North East Bedfordshire), Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon), Justine Greening (Putney), Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield), Sam Gyimah (East Surrey), Richard Harrington (Watford), Margot James (Stourbridge), Phillip Lee (Bracknell), Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), Oliver Letwin (West Dorset), Paul Masterton (East Renfrewshire), Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth), Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury), Keith Simpson (Broadland), Ed Vaizey (Wantage).
Rebel Mr Djanogly tweeted: “Prorogation for Brexit purposes would have been damaging to our constitution and the Conservative Party and have led to civil insurrection and violence.”
Mrs May left the job of sacking the rebel ministers to Mr Johnson.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is obviously disappointed that a number of Ministers failed to vote in this afternoon’s division. No doubt her successor will take this into account when forming their government.”
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: “For Boris Johnson to try to shut down Parliament to force through a destructive ‘no deal’ Brexit would be a constitutional outrage. Now it would also be unlawful. A huge victory.”
Amendments to the Northern Ireland (executive formation) bill will force the government to publish progress reports on power-sharing talks during October, meaning parliament must sit. The Benn amendment added a power to make the Government recall the Commons for five days, during which MPs could vote to stop a no-deal.