London, March 12
Britain’s Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal to quit the European Union for a second time on Tuesday, deepening the country’s worst political crisis for generations, 17 days before the planned departure date.
Lawmakers voted against May’s amended Brexit deal by 391 to 242 as her last-minute talks with EU chiefs on Monday to assuage her critics’ concerns ultimately proved fruitless. Seventy-five Conservative MPs rebelled against their party's position by rejecting May’s deal. Three Labour parliamentarians rebelled against their leader by voting in favour of the agreement.
The vote puts the world’s fifth largest economy in uncharted territory with no obvious way forward: exiting the EU without a deal, delaying the March 29 divorce date, a snap election, or even another referendum are all now possible.
May might even try a third time to get parliamentary support in the hope that hardline eurosceptic lawmakers in her Conservative Party, the most vocal critics of her withdrawal treaty, might change their minds if it becomes more likely that Britain might stay in the EU after all. While she lost, the margin of defeat was smaller than the record 230-vote loss her deal suffered in January.
“If this vote is not passed tonight, if this deal is not passed, then Brexit could be lost,” a hoarse-voiced May told lawmakers before her deal was defeated. Lawmakers are now due to vote on Wednesday on whether Britain should exit the world’s biggest trading bloc without a deal, a scenario that business leaders warn would bring chaos to markets and supply chains, and other critics say could cause shortages of food and medicines.
Declaring May’s Brexit deal as “dead”, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called on the government to adopt his proposals for a softer Brexit. “Their deal, their proposal, the one the Prime Minister’s put is clearly dead,” the Labour Party leader told the House. “Allowing a free vote on no deal shows Theresa May has given up any pretence of leading the country. Once again, she's putting her party's interests ahead of the public interest,” a Labour spokesman said. — Agencies
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