MPs could vote again on May’s EU agreement after ruling out no-deal Brexit

Theresa May has held out the prospect of a third “meaningful vote” on her EU Withdrawal Agreement within the next week after MPs dramatically voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

A Government motion for debate in the House of Commons on Thursday offers to seek a one-off extension delaying Brexit to June 30 if MPs approve the deal negotiated with the EU by next Wednesday.

But the Prime Minister warned if the deal – which has already been twice rejected by massive majorities – is not approved, a longer extension will be needed, requiring Britain to take part in the European Parliament elections in May.

“I do not think that would be the right outcome,” the Prime Minister said.

“But the House needs to face up to the consequences of the decisions it has taken.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told MPs Mrs May had repeatedly offered a choice between her deal and no deal, adding: “In the last 24 hours, Parliament has decisively rejected both.”

Mr Corbyn said: “Parliament must now take control of the situation.

“Myself, the shadow Brexit secretary and others will have meetings with members across the House to find a compromise solution that can command support in the House.”

After the 149-vote rejection of her Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday, Mrs May suffered a second defeat in as many days when MPs backed a cross-party amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances.

Result of the House of Commons vote on the government motion
(PA Graphics)

In a surprise move, the Commons voted 312 to 308 – a majority of four –  in favour of the proposal tabled by former Conservative chairman Dame Caroline Spelman.

The vote was later confirmed by a more emphatic 321 votes to 278, overriding a Government motion from Theresa May that would have rejected no-deal on the scheduled date of March 29 but left it on the table for other times.

Work and Pensions Minister Sarah Newton quit after defying the whips to vote for the cross-party proposal.

Four Cabinet ministers – David Mundell, Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark – and Claire Perry, who attends Cabinet, did not vote on the motion.

Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell said: “I’ve always opposed a no-deal Brexit. The House made its view clear by agreeing the Spelman amendment, I didn’t think it was right for me to oppose that.

“The PM has my full support in her objective of leaving the EU with a deal to deliver an orderly Brexit.”

Speaking moments after the vote, Mrs May accepted there was a “clear majority” against no-deal in the Commons.

She insisted no-deal remains the default option in UK and EU law, however, unless a Withdrawal Agreement is reached.

The Government motion tabled for debate on Thursday states that if MPs back a Withdrawal Agreement within the next seven days, the Prime Minister will seek a one-off extension to June 30 to pass necessary legislation.

It adds if no agreement has been approved by the time of the European Council  on March 21, “it is highly likely the European Council … would require a clear purpose for any extension, not least to determine its length, and any extension beyond June 30 2019 would require the United Kingdom to hold European Parliament elections in May 2019”.

The motion sparked fury among MPs, who accused the Government of seeking to ignore the views of the Commons.