LONDON ― British Parliament on Wednesday voted to reject a no-deal Brexit, inflicting yet another humiliating defeat on Theresa May.
The prime minister herself tabled a motion to stop a no-deal Brexit from happening on March 29, while also acknowledging that it was impossible to take it off the table for the future without passing some kind of withdrawal deal.
But instead, on Wednesday MPs outright rejected leaving with no deal, passing a cross-party amendment by 312 votes to 308 – a majority of just four.
MPs are now expected to vote on Thursday to ask the EU for an extension of the Article 50 exit process, which would see the Brexit date pushed back.
It comes after a grueling two days for the prime minister, as she lost her voice and battled to convince MPs to support her and cabinet splits burst open in public.
The PM had herself had proposed rejecting no deal, but the complex nature of her motion, which kept no deal on the table in the longer term for negotiating leverage, was rejected.
It comes after the Brexit withdrawal deal she negotiated with the EU suffered its second crushing defeat in the Commons on Tuesday night.
So what happens now?
Westminster’s attention is now expected to turn to how the UK gets the EU to agree to an Article 50 extension.
A cross-party group is planning to force May to consider different Brexit options as a way of breaking the logjam.
But the PM herself could seek to see off another potential defeat by offering the so-called “indicative votes”.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Wednesday warned that “the risk of no deal has never been higher” and that it could happen “by accident.”
“Why would we extend these discussions?,” he told members of the European Parliament. “The discussion on Article 50 is done and dusted.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond warned that no deal would mean “significant disruption” to the British economy.
“Higher unemployment, lower wages, higher prices in the shops – that is not what the British people voted for in June 2016,” he said.
But Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said he would prefer no deal – even though it risks economic harm and threatens to break up the United Kingdom – to no Brexit at all.
He told BBC Radio 4′s Today that, “between those very unpleasant choices, I think no Brexit is the bigger risk.”
This is a developing story…