- The House of Commons voted on Wednesday evening to reject a no-deal Brexit in a significant blow to Theresa May.
- Members of Parliament voted twice to oppose the prospect of leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement on March 29.
- 13 government ministers defied the prime minister by refusing to oppose the plan.
- MPs will on Thursday vote on whether to delay Brexit beyond March 29.
- May is planning to put her deal to at least one more House of Commons vote.
- Brexit is 15 days away.
LONDON – Members of Parliament have rejected a no-deal Brexit happening in any circumstances and on Thursday will vote on whether to delay the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
MPs seized greater control of the Brexit process in two dramatic votes on Wednesday evening.
In the first, they voted by 312 to 308 to endorse an amendment in the name of Conservative MP Caroline Spelman, which said they opposed leaving the EU without a deal on March 29 under any circumstances.
They then voted by an even bigger majority of 321 votes to 278, to support the government’s own motion on a no-deal Brexit, which had been altered by the Spelman amendment to rule out the prospect of a no-deal Brexit altogether.
The government tried to keep control of the Brexit process by whipping Conservative MPs to oppose the plan.
However, it failed. Thirteen ministers defied May by refusing to oppose it, in a complete breakdown of government unity. These included Business Secretary Greg Clarke and Work & Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd.
Conservative MP Sarah Newton resigned from her role as a junior minister in order to vote against the government.
Parliament’s rejection of a no-deal Brexit does not change the law but represents a clear expression of its will and a further significant blow to the waning authority of the prime minister.
Speaking after the defeats, May warned that if MPs cannot find a majority for a deal in the next few days, Brexit will have to be delayed for much longer than the period of time currently proposed.
“The House needs to face up to the decisions it has taken,” she told MPs.
The prime minister will tell MPs that an extension to the Article 50 process, if approved by the EU, need only delay Brexit until the end of June if the House of Commons can agree on a deal by next Wednesday.
May intends to put the Withdrawal Agreement back to the House of Commons for a third vote next week after it was rejected by a majority of 149 on Tuesday.
The UK government hopes that the threat of a delayed Brexit and MPs forcing May into a “softer” deal will persuade pro-Brexit Conservatives who opposed the deal to get behind it.
However, if MPs do not support her deal next week, Brexit could be delayed well beyond three months, the prime minister will warn them on Thursday afternoon.
Voting is set to get underway at 17:00 (GMT).
There is also set to be a fresh set of amendments designed to give MPs more control over the Brexit process.
One, spearheaded by influential backbench MPs Oliver Letwin and Yvette Cooper, will seek to give the House of Commons “indicative votes” on a series of alternatives to the prime minister’s agreement with the EU.
These are set to include a Norway-style “soft” Brexit, and a referendum on whether to leave the EU at all.
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