British lawmakers defeated Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal by a crushing margin on Tuesday, triggering political chaos that could lead to a disorderly exit from the EU or even to a reversal of the 2016 decision to leave, Reuters reports.
After parliament voted 432-202 against her deal, the worst defeat in modern British history, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn promptly called a vote of no confidence in May’s government, to be held at 1900 GMT on Wednesday.
With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Brexit, the UK is now ensnared in the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the European project that it joined in 1973, the report noted.
“It is clear that the House does not support this deal, but tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support,” May told parliament, moments after the result was announced.
“… nothing about how – or even if – it intends to honor the decision the British people took in a referendum parliament decided to hold.”
More than 100 of May’s own Conservative lawmakers – both Brexit backers and supporters of EU membership – joined forces to vote down the deal. In doing so, they smashed the previous record defeat for a government, a 166-vote margin, set in 1924.
The humiliating loss, the first British parliamentary defeat of a treaty since 1864, appeared to catastrophically undermine May’s two-year strategy of forging an amicable divorce with close ties to the EU after the March 29 exit.
With May vowing to stand by her deal and Labour trying to trigger a national election, parliament is still effectively deadlocked, with no alternative proposal.
May’s spokesman told reporters that May’s deal could still form the basis of an accord with the EU, but opponents disagreed.
“This deal is dead,” said Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party’s most prominent Brexiteer, who urged May to go back to Brussels to seek better terms.
If there was any consolation for May, it was that her internal adversaries appeared set to fight off the attempt to topple her.
The small Northern Irish DUP party, which props up May’s minority government and refused to back the deal, said it would still stand behind May in the no-confidence vote.
The pro-Brexit Conservatives who were the most vehement opponents of her deal also said they would support her.
Labour has said if it fails to trigger an election then it will look at the possibility of supporting another referendum.
The EU said the Brexit deal remained the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said there would be no further renegotiation.
“The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote,” said EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, adding that it would intensify preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
A Labour Party spokesman said it is becoming more likely that Britain would have to ask the EU to postpone the March 29 departure date required by the Article 50 withdrawal notice.
But Donald Tusk, the chairman of EU leaders, suggested Britain should now consider reversing Brexit altogether.
“If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” he tweeted.
May said she would reach out to opposition parties to forge a way ahead. But Corbyn, who wants Labour to be given the chance to negotiate with Brussels, was dismissive.
“After two years of failed negotiations, the House of Commons has delivered its verdict on her Brexit deal, and that verdict is absolutely decisive,” he said. “Her governing principle of delay and denial has reached the end of the line.”
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