- UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was defeated on Friday for a third time, 344-286.
- A significant number of Conservative Brexiteers switched to back May’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union.
- But the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s government, refused to budge.
- The government’s efforts to win over swathes of Labour members of Parliament also fell short.
- Failure to pass the deal means the EU’s offer of a Brexit delay until May 22 no longer stands.
- The UK now has until April 12 to agree to a deal or be forced to seek a long Brexit delay.
LONDON – Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was defeated on Friday for the third time, as members of Parliament again voted to reject the withdrawal agreement she has negotiated with the European Union.
The prime minister had urged MPs to back the deal, describing it as “the last opportunity to guarantee Brexit” amid the prospect of the UK’s exit being delayed by many months.
She also warned that a lengthy delay would force the UK to take part in the upcoming European Parliament elections.
However, while a significant number of Conservative Brexiteers – including Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, and Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary – switched to back the deal, it was not enough to secure a majority.
Crucially, the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government, refused to back the deal, with most opposition MPs also resisting calls to switch sides.
Fears among pro-EU Labour MPs that many would back the deal were not realised, as many waverers were put off by the prime minister’s commitment to stand down if the deal passed.
Thirty-four Conservative MPs voted against May’s deal, while just five Labour MPs defied the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to back it.
Responding to the result, May told MPs: “I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House.
“This House has rejected no-deal. It has rejected no Brexit. On Wednesday, it rejected all the variations of the deal on the table. And today it has rejected approving the withdrawal agreement alone and continuing a process on the future.”
European Council President Donald Tusk announced on Twitter that he would call an emergency meeting of EU leaders on April 1o.
The result means that the EU’s offer to delay Brexit until May 22 expires and that the UK is now due to leave on April 12. MPs now face a stark choice between no-deal and a long delay to Brexit.
A long extension to the Article 50 Brexit process would also give space to those MPs pushing for a softer Brexit.
MPs are set to vote again on alternative plans to May’s deal on Monday. In a similar vote last Wednesday, the option of remaining in a customs union with the EU was narrowly defeated, by eight votes.
Corbyn said on Friday that May must let MPs choose an alternative to her deal or resign.
“The House has been clear: This deal now has to change,” he said following the vote. “There has to be an alternative found. And if the prime minister can’t accept that, then she must go, not at an indeterminate date in the future, but now, so that we can decide the future of this country through a general election.”
Steve Baker, the deputy leader of the European Research Group of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs, also called on May to resign immediately.
“I regret to say it is time for Theresa May to follow through on her words and make way so that a new leader can deliver a withdrawal agreement which will be passed by Parliament,” he said.
“This has been a tragic waste of time and energy for the country. We can waste no more.”
May told Conservative MPs this week that she would stand down as the Conservative Party leader and prime minister once MPs vote to approve a Brexit deal.
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