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Deal crushed, May faces no-confidence vote

This article is more than 12 months old

But lawmakers who voted down Brexit deal still support PM

LONDON British lawmakers defeated Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit divorce deal by a crushing margin on Tuesday, triggering political chaos that could lead to a disorderly exit from the European Union or even a reversal of the 2016 decision to leave.

After Parliament voted 432-202 against her deal, the worst defeat in modern British history, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn promptly called for a vote of no confidence in Mrs May's government, to be held at 7pm Greenwich Mean Time on Wednesday (3am today, Singapore time).

With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Brexit, Britain is now ensnared in the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the EU.

"It is clear the House does not support this deal, but tonight's vote tells us nothing about what it does support," Mrs May told Parliament, moments after the result was announced.

"Nothing about how - or even if - it intends to honour the decision the British people took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold."

More than 100 of Mrs May's own Conservative lawmakers joined forces to vote down the deal. In doing so, they smashed the previous record defeat for a government, a 166-vote margin, set in 1924.

The humiliating loss, the first British parliamentary defeat of a treaty since 1864, seemed to catastrophically undermine Mrs May's two-year strategy of forging an amicable divorce with close ties to the EU after the exit.

With Mrs May vowing to stand by her deal and Labour trying to trigger a national election, Parliament is effectively deadlocked, with no alternative proposal.

Her spokesman told reporters the deal could still form the basis of an accord with the EU, but opponents disagreed.

"This deal is dead," said Mr Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party's most prominent Brexiteer, who urged Mrs May to seek better terms in Brussels.

A Labour Party spokesman said it was becoming more likely that Britain would have to ask the EU to postpone the departure date.

Ministers told business leaders on Tuesday that lawmakers were preparing a motion to delay Article 50, according to a source.

If there was any consolation for Mrs May, it was that her internal adversaries appeared set to fight off the attempt to topple her.

The small Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party that props up Mrs May's minority government and refused to back the deal, said it would still stand behind Mrs May in the no-confidence vote.

The pro-Brexit Conservatives who were the most vehement opponents of her deal also said they would support her.

Labour has said if it fails to trigger an election then it will look at the possibility of supporting another referendum.

The EU said the Brexit deal remained the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said there would be no further renegotiation.

"The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the UK has increased with this evening's vote," said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, adding it would intensify preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

But Mr Donald Tusk, the chairman of EU leaders, suggested that Britain should now consider reversing Brexit altogether. He tweeted: "If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?" - REUTERS