Government in crisis as MPs vote down Theresa May's Brexit deal once again
Theresa May's plans for Brexit have been left in tatters after MPs once again rejected the deal she struck with the European Union.
In a devastating blow for the Prime Minister, the Commons voted 391 to 242 against the re-worked withdrawal agreement, despite her warnings that doing so could put Brexit itself at risk.
Mrs May had earlier pleaded with MPs to "have faith with the British people" by backing her Brexit strategy.
She said: "This is the moment, this is the time, the time for us to come together, back this motion and get the deal done."
The Prime Minister had also told a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning "today is the day" as her top team backed the changes she managed to secure in late-night talks in Strasbourg with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
But her hopes of victory were effectively killed off when the DUP - who she relies upon for her wafer-thin working majority in Parliament - announced that their MPs would be voting against the Government.
That followed Attorney General Geoffrey Cox publishing his legal opinion that the changes to Mrs May's original deal - which was defeated by 230 votes in the Commons in January - were not enough to prevent the UK being kept in the Irish backstop indefinitely and against its will.
Tory euroscpetics in the backbench European Research Group also announced just an hour before the vote announced that the majority of them would also be voting against the deal.
ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "The feeling in the room was that Geoffrey Cox's advice hadn't changed in essence and that the DUP are voting against and we are very close to the DUP.
"There is no significant change to the deal. What we wanted changed was very limited. We would like an end point to the backstop. Without that we'd be unable to support it, though some people have come to a different conclusion."
The group's deputy chair, Steve Baker, said: "We've just got to vote for what we believe to be right. And I think that means that the deal will be significantly defeated."
The Government's latest humiliating Brexit defeat came despite a string of Tory MPs who voted against the deal two months ago - including former Cabinet minister David Davis - announcing they were backing it this time around.
Responding to the defeat, the Prime Minister confirmed she would go ahead with plans to offer MPs two further votes on leaving the EU without a deal and on extending the Article 50 process.
"I profoundly regret the decision that this House has taken tonight," she said.
"I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is that the UK leaves the EU in an orderly fashion with a deal, and that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed the only deal available.
"Two weeks ago, I made a series of commitments from this despatch box regarding the steps we would take in the event that this House rejected the deal on offer. I stand by those commitments in full.
"Therefore, tonight we will table a motion for debate tomorrow to test whether the House supports leaving the European Union without a deal on 29th March.
"The Leader of the House will shortly make an emergency business statement confirming the change to tomorrow’s business."
The Prime Minister also confirmed that MPs in her party would be given a free vote on the issue in a bid to avoid a raft of resignations from her Government.
She added: "This is an issue of grave importance for the future of our country. Just like the referendum, there are strongly held and equally legitimate views on both sides.
"For that reason, I can confirm that this will be a free vote on this side of the House.
"I have personally struggled with this choice as I am sure many other Honourable Members will. I am passionate about delivering the result of the referendum. But I equally passionately believe that the best way to do that is to leave in an orderly way with a deal and I still believe there is a majority in the House for that course of action.
"And I am conscious also of my duties as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the potential damage to the Union that leaving without a deal could do when one part of our country is without devolved governance."
Speaking after the vote, Jeremy Corbyn said: "The Government has been defeated again by a massive majority and they must now accept their deal, their proposal, the one the Prime Minister has put, is clearly dead and does not have the support of this House.
"And quite clearly, no-deal must be taken off the table, we have said that before and we will say that again, but it does mean the House has got to come together with a proposal which could be negotiated.
"The Labour party has put that proposal, and we will put that proposal again, because the dangers of what the Prime Minister is proposing are basically that she carries on threatening us all with the danger of a no-deal, the danger of that, knowing full well the damage that will do to the British economy.
"This party will put forward their proposals again which are about a negotiated customs union, access to the market and protections of rights. Those are the ones we will put forward. We believe there may well be a majority for them, but there will also be the potential of negotiating them.
"The Prime Minister has run down the clock and the clock has been run out on her. Maybe it is time instead we had a general election and the people could choose who the government should be."