Fresh blow for Theresa May as MPs vote to permanently rule out a no-deal Brexit
MPs have voted to rule out the possibility that the UK could leave the European Union without a deal.
On another night of parliamentary drama, a cross-party amendment to reject a no-deal Brexit in all circumstances was backed by 312 votes to 308.
That was despite the two main authors of the amendment - Tory MP Caroline Spelman and Labour's Jack Dromey - failing to support it themselves.
The result is a yet another major blow Theresa May, who had tabled a motion ruling out the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 29 March, but leaving it on the table for the future.
That amended motion was then passed by 321 votes to 278, despite the Prime Minister ordering her MPs to vote against it.
Although the result has no legal force, it piles huge political pressure on the Prime Minister to come up with an alternative deal that will win the backing of a majority of MPs.
It also drastically reduces Mrs May's leverage in her negotiations with Brussels, as EU leaders now know that Parliament will not allow a no-deal Brexit to happen.
A separate amendment on the so-called "Malthouse Compromise", which is supported by Tory eurosceptics and would also see Brexit delayed until 22 May, was voted down by 374 votes to 164.
The Prime Minister had been forced to give her MPs a free vote on that amendment under pressure from some of her Cabinet ministers.
Winding up the debate, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: "The only way to take no deal off the table in the longer term is the have a negotiated deal, unless we are to revoke Article 50 and have no Brexit.
"There is no worse outcome for this House, this country and our democracy than to have no Brexit."
The results mean that MPs will vote on Thursday afternoon on whether or not to extend the Article 50 process.
If they back a Brexit delay, the Prime Minister has pledged to go to Brussels and request an extension past 29 March.
Responding to the defeat, Mrs May said: "The House has provided a clear majority against leaving without a deal, but I will repeat what I have said before."
"These are about choices that this House faces. The legal default in UK and EU law remains that the UK will leave the EU without a deal unless something else is agreed. The onus is now on everyone of us in this House to find out what this is, the options before us are the same as they always have been.
"We could leave with the deal this Government has negotiated in the past two years, we could leave with the deal we have negotiated but subject to a second referendum, but that would risk no Brexit at all. Damaging the fragile trust between the British public and the members of this House.
"We could seek to negotiate a different deal, however, the EU has been clear that the deal on the table is the only deal available. Mr Speaker, I also confirmed last night that if the House declined to approve leaving without a deal on the 29th March 2019, the government would bring forward a motion on whether the House supports seeking to agree an extension of Article 50 with the EU, which is the logical consequence of the votes over the last two days in this House.
"The Leader of the House will shortly make an emergency business statement confirming the change to tomorrows business. The motion we will table will set out the fundamental choice facing this house. If the House finds a way in the coming days to support a deal, it would allow the Government to seek a short limited technical extension to Article 50, to provide time to pass the necessary legislation and ratify the agreement we have reached with the EU.
"But let me be clear, such a short technical extension is only likely to be on offer if we have a deal in place. Therefore, the House has to understand and accept that if it is not willing to accept a deal in the coming days, and as it is not willing to accept leaving without a deal on the 29th of March, then it is suggesting that there will need to be a much longer extension to Article 50. Such an extension would undoubtedly require the UK to hold EU parliament elections in May 2019. I do not think that would be the right outcome, but the House needs to face up to the consequences of the decisions it has taken."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: “Tonight this House has once again definitely ruled out No Deal. The Prime Minister said the choice was between her deal and No Deal. In the last 24 hours Parliament has decisively rejected both her deal and No Deal. While an extension of Article 50 is now inevitable, the responsibility for that extension lies solely and squarely at the Prime Minister’s door.
“But extending Article 50 without a clear objective is not a solution. Parliament must now take control of the situation. In the days that follow, myself, the Shadow Brexit Secretary and others will have meetings with members across this House to find a compromise solution that can command support in the House. This means doing what the Prime Minister failed to do two years ago: search for a consensus on the way forward.
“Labour has set out a credible alternative plan. Honourable members across this House are coming forward with proposals, whether that’s for a permanent customs union, a public vote, Norway Plus or other ideas.
“Let us, as a House of Commons work now to find a solution - to deal with the crisis facing the country and the deep concerns that many people have for their livelihood, their lives, their future, their jobs, their communities and their factories. It’s up to us, as the House of Commons, to look for and find a solution to their concerns. That is what we were elected to do.”