Agreement thrown out again
MPs reject May’s deal plunging Britain into more chaos
Theresa May: ‘we are reaching the limits of this process’
MPs have again rejected Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement, this time by 344 votes to 286, a majority of 58, prompting the Prime Minister to declare that the Commons was “reaching the limits” of finding agreement.
It means the UK has missed an EU deadline to delay Brexit to 22 May and leave with a deal. Britain is now poised to leave the EU on 12 April with no deal.
Speaking in the Commons on the day the UK was due to leave the EU, the prime minister said the UK would have to find “an alternative way forward”, which was “almost certain” to involve holding European elections.
She added that the outcome “should be a matter of profound regret to every member of this House that once again we have been unable to support leaving the European Union in an orderly fashion.
“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. In just 14 days’ time.
“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. And so we will have to agree an alternative way forward.
“The European Union has been clear that any further extension will need to have a clear purpose and will need to be agreed unanimously by the heads of the other 27 Member States ahead of 12 April.
“It is also almost certain to involve the UK being required to hold European Parliamentary elections.
“On Monday, this House will continue the process to see if there is a stable majority for a particular alternative version of our future relationship with the EU. Of course, all of the options will require the Withdrawal Agreement.
“Mr Speaker, I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House.
“This House has rejected no deal. It has rejected no Brexit. On Wednesday it rejected all the variations of the deal on the table. And today it has rejected approving the Withdrawal Agreement alone and continuing a process on the future.
“This Government will continue to press the case for the orderly Brexit that the result of the referendum demands.”
Responding to the vote, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “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.”
Sterling sank immediately after the result. Against the dollar, the pound was down 0.4% at $1.2995, after having risen in the hours before the vote. Against the euro, sterling was 0.38% lower at €1.1577.
Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “All eyes are now on Monday to discover what Parliament is for. The UK’s reputation, people’s jobs and livelihoods are at stake. No deal is two weeks away. This winner takes all approach means everyone loses. Indicative votes must deliver. Only MPs can end this nightmare for businesses.”
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “It is imperative for both businesses and households that we avoid leaving the EU without a deal. A no deal Brexit would mean higher prices and less choice on the shelves. Parliamentarians must come together to find a mechanism to take no deal off the table completely. There are still options open to MPs and they must get behind one of them. The country needs certainty and a legal guarantee against the chaos that will inevitably result from no deal.
“Businesses are paying the price of the political uncertainty. Time and money is being spent, irrecoverably, preparing for a no deal scenario that most people, businesses and politicians do not want to see.”