Parliament votes to reject no-deal Brexit. But it’s not legally binding

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May handed another defeat in parliament
May handed another defeat in parliament

MPs have voted to reject leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement.

Theresa May said there was a “clear majority” against a no-deal Brexit but the “legal default” was that the UK would leave without a deal on 29 March if no deal is reached.

MPs will now get a vote on delaying Brexit, said the prime minister.

That vote will take place on Thursday, and if it is passed – and the EU agrees to it – the UK will not leave the EU as planned on 29 March.

In another night of high drama in the Commons, MPs voted by 321 to 278 in favor of a motion to rule out leaving the EU with no deal on March 29. Minutes earlier, that motion had been amended in another vote to toughen up the government’s wording against leaving without a deal.

But in a bizarre turn of events, the government ordered its MPs to vote against its own — now amended — motion ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

The defeat for the government, by 43 votes, prompted shouts of “resign” from opposition MPs. Responding to the result, the prime minister, barely able to speak because of a hoarse voice, acknowledged the “clear majority against leaving without a deal.” But she said:

‘The legal reality remains that the U.K. would leave without a deal on March 29 unless a divorce treaty is agreed, Article 50 revoked or a delay to Britain’s exit day signed off by the EU.

One of the Conservatives who defied the party whip to vote against the government was Sarah Newton, a junior minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, she has now resigned her post.

The earlier amendment to the government’s weaker no-deal motion, put forward by Conservative MP Caroline Spelman, removed an acknowledgement that no deal remains the legal default, in an apparent bid to remove any ambiguity about the government’s intentions.

Prior to the vote May had pledged that, if the government’s motion passed, she would put forward a further motion on extending the Article 50 negotiating period, for a vote on Thursday.

To give MPs’ rejection of no deal legal force, May must formally request an extension from the EU27, who must reach a unanimous decision on whether they will grant it.

 

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