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Theresa May‘s Brexit deal has been rejected by MPs for a third time on a dramatic day in the House of Commons.
Parliament voted down the Withdrawal Agreement by a majority of 58 – a smaller margin than when they rejected it for a second time in February by 149.
The result is a devastating blow for the Prime Minister, who has tied her personal leadership to the success of this Brexit deal – but it is now dead in the water.
It means the UK could leave the EU with no deal on 12 April – in just 14 days’ time. It is more likely, however, that the UK will seek a much longer extension as it seeks to extract itself from the EU.
For this to happen, the UK will have to present a new plan to Brussels by 10 April, which the EU would have to accept for Brexit to be pushed back any further.
But the European Commission has reacted to the vote by stating the UK is now “likely” to crash our without any agreement in place. It said in a statement: “”A “no-deal” scenario on 12 April is now a likely scenario. The EU has been preparing for this since December 2017 and is now fully prepared for a “no-deal” scenario at midnight on 12 April.”
The defeat comes despite numerous high-profile Brexiteer Tories, including Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, stating they would back it to avoid the possibility of Brexit being cancelled altogether.
However, Mrs May was unable to convince the DUP to support her deal and nor was she able to persuade enough Labour rebels to get behind her.
Under the terms of an agreement with Brussels, a positive vote would have qualified the UK for an automatic delay to May 22 – the formal date of Brexit.
Instead, the defeat means the UK now has until April 12 to ask Brussels for a further extension to Brexit negotiations – which would require it to take part in May’s elections to the European Parliament – or leave the EU without a deal.
She had even attempted to persuade them to agree with her by separating the Withdrawal Agreement from the Political Declaration that follows it.
Speaking after the vote: Mrs May said she would continue to “press the case for an orderly Brexit” by agreeing an alternative way forward.
She said: “I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House. The implications of the House’s decision are grave.
“The legal default now is that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on 12 April.
“This is not enough time to agree, legislate for and ratify a deal, and yet the House has been clear it will not permit leaving without a deal.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn immediately called on Mrs May to quit and called for a general election.
He said: “This is now the third time the Prime Minister’s deal has been rejected. Does she now finally accept this House does not support the deal? Because she seemed to indicate just now that she is going to return to this issue again.
“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, a Tory MP and hardline Brexiteer also called for Mrs May to stand down. He said: “This must be the final defeat for Theresa May’s deal. I regret to say she must follow through on her words and make way for another leader to deliver a Withdrawal Agreement which will be passed by Parliament.”
Donald Tusk tweeted immediately after the vote that there would be an emergency summit of the European Council on April 10.
In view of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons, I have decided to call a European Council on 10 April. #Brexit
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) March 29, 2019
DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds urged Theresa May to “look seriously” at Dominic Raab’s comments on the Irish backstop.
He said: “She knows that remains the problem … Please Prime Minister, even now, use the time constructively to get that matter sorted out.”
Independent Group leader Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) said “this deal is over” and “we must have a People’s Vote now”.
Green MP Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion) said it was “grotesque” the Prime Minister had been “willing to sell out the country’s future for the price of some Tory MP careers”.
The 34 Conservative MPs who rebelled to vote against the motion were:
Adam Afriyie (Windsor), Steve Baker (Wycombe), John Baron (Basildon and Billericay), Guto Bebb (Aberconwy), Peter Bone (Wellingborough), Suella Braverman (Fareham), Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire), William Cash (Stone), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East), Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford), Marcus Fysh (Yeovil), Justine Greening (Putney), Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield), Sam Gyimah (East Surrey), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), Adam Holloway (Gravesham), Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire), Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex), Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood), Joseph Johnson (Orpington), David Jones (Clwyd West), Phillip Lee (Bracknell), Julian Lewis (New Forest East), Julia Lopez (Hornchurch and Upminster), Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet), Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), Priti Patel (Witham), Owen Paterson (North Shropshire), John Redwood (Wokingham), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Andrew Rosindell (Romford), Lee Rowley (North East Derbyshire), Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet).
The five Labour MPs who voted for the Withdrawal Agreement motion were: K
evin Barron (Rother Valley), Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse), Caroline Flint (Don Valley) and John Mann (Bassetlaw).