MPs to vote on delaying EU withdrawal after rejecting a no-deal Brexit

MPs are to vote on delaying Brexit after dramatically rejecting crashing out of the European Union without a deal under any circumstances.

In a surprise move, the Commons voted 312 to 308 – a majority of four –  in favour of a cross-party amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit.

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

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

Speaking moments after her second significant Brexit defeat in the same number of days, Mrs May accepted that there was a “clear majority” against no-deal in the Commons.

But she insisted that despite the vote – which is not legally binding – no-deal remains the default option in UK and EU law unless a Withdrawal Agreement is reached.

Confirming that MPs will vote on Thursday on whether to ask her to request an extension of the Article 50 negotiation process, Mrs May said that they were facing a “fundamental choice”.

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

“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,” she said.

But if MPs would not back a deal, there would have to be “a much longer extension”, requiring the UK to take part in European Parliament elections in May, she said.

“I do not think that would be the right outcome,” said the Prime Minister. “But the House needs to face up to the consequences of the decisions it has taken.”

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

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded that 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.”