LOSING one vote when you are the Prime Minister is a dent in your strong and stable image but to lose three Parliamentary votes in less than an hour must be ranked as the most humiliating moments of a Premiership, especially when you are about to kick off the most important debate of your life.

In a shattering few minutes, the whole future of the Prime Minister Theresa May and her Government was called into serious question by the Opposition who voted against the Government three times with the support of rebel Tory MPs.

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The biggest defeat for May was that some of her own members as Ministers were found to be in contempt of Parliament – the first time this has ever happened – over their refusal to publish the legal advice on Brexit that the Government wanted to conceal.

That unprecedented condemnation was followed immediately by Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom saying that the legal advice would be published today.

The three defeats – the other two were procedural but important – followed the humiliation first thing yesterday morning of the European Court of Justice deciding that the UK could unilaterally revoke the Article 50 Brexit process as a result of legal action brought by six Scottish politicians.

May and her colleagues knew they were in trouble when MPs rejected a Government amendment, to kick the contempt issue into the long grass until after the vote on the Brexit deal by 311 votes to 307, majority four. The contempt vote was truly historic.

A motion tabled by the SNP, Labour, the other opposition parties and the Government’s supposed allies the DUP argued ministers were in contempt due to their failure to fully publish advice given to Cabinet by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox. That motion was approved by 311 votes to 293, a majority of 18.

House leader Leadsom said: “We’ve tested the opinion of the House twice on this very serious subject.

“We’ve listened carefully and in light of the expressed will of the House we will publish the final and full advice provided by the Attorney General to Cabinet but recognising the very serious constitutional issues this raises I have referred the matter to the privileges committee to consider the implications of the humble address.”

The Commons then voted to give MPs the power to demand what must be done on Brexit if the May deal is voted down, with 26 Tory rebels – including the PM’s former deputy Damian Green – helping to pass an amendment saying MPs can tell the Government what to do.

All of that took place before the Prime Minister started the main Brexit debate.

She began: “I ask the House to consider what that would say to those in our constituencies who put aside decades of doubt in the political process because they believed that their voice would finally be heard.

“What it would say about the state of our democracy that the biggest vote in our history were to be re-run because the majority in this House didn’t like the outcome. And what it would do to that democracy and what forces it would unleash. This House voted to give the decision to the British people, this House promised we would honour their decision.

“If we betray that promise how can we expect them to trust us again?

“And even if we held the referendum what would it achieve? It wouldn’t bring the country together, it would divide us all over again.”

The PM said both Remainers and Brexiteers have been left dissatisfied by parts of her deal but the ‘hard truth’ is that the compromise she has thrashed out with Brussels is the only deal which delivers on the historic vote and protects jobs.

She said: “I know there are some in this House and in the country who would prefer a closer relationship with the European Union than the one I’m proposing, indeed who would prefer the relationship that we currently have and want another referendum.

“Although I profoundly disagree, they are arguing for what they believe is right for our country and I respect that.

“But the hard truth is that we will not settle this issue and bring our country together that way and I ask them to think what it would say to the 52% who came out to vote Leave, in many cases for the first time in decades, if their decision were ignored.’

Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell said the debate was a “historic opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to come together and formally oppose both a ‘no deal’ option and the Prime Minister’s damaging Brexit deal”.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Russell said: “The Prime Minister’s Brexit deal will make Scotland poorer and deliver continued uncertainty. It will mean years of further negotiations with no guarantee that a trade deal with the EU will even be agreed.

“This is a historic opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to come together and formally oppose both a ‘no deal’ option and the Prime Minister’s damaging Brexit deal.”