A component of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal for leaving the European Union has been rejected a third time, defeated in Parliament 286 to 344 during a vote held on Britain’s so-called “Independence Day”.
The European Council moved quickly to confirm it unanimously refused to re-open talks, meaning the United Kingdom is now on track to leave the EU on April 12 without a deal.
Amid business warnings that a no-deal Brexit could mean crippling tariffs, border gridlock and shortages of goods, a visibly frustrated Mrs May said the vote had “grave” implications.
“I think it 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,” she said.
“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.”
Moments after the vote was announced, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the European Council was not willing to revisit the withdrawal agreement.
Mr Varadkar added the EC should be open to a long extension but only if the UK was willing to “fundamentally reconsider” its approach.
“Ireland has been preparing intensively for a no-deal scenario. But no one should underestimate the difficulties that a no deal will present, for all of us, including the UK,” Mr Varadkar said.
“It is not clear that the UK has fully understood that no deal is not off the agenda. Rather, it’s a growing possibility.”
European leaders will meet on April 10 for an emergency summit to discuss Britain’s departure from the bloc.
“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,” Donald Tusk, the European Council president, 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. #Brexit
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) March 29, 2019
Mrs May will press on with talks to secure support for her Brexit deal, her spokesman confirmed.
The spokesman said the smaller margin of defeat showed that things were moving in the right direction and that a number of senior Conservatives had voted with the Government.
“Clearly it wasn’t the result we wanted,” the spokesman told reporters.
“But, that said, we have had a number of senior Conservative colleagues who have felt able to vote with the Government today … clearly there’s also more work to do but in point of fact, we are at least going in the right direction.”
‘It is an ex-deal’
Last week, to prevent Britain from crashing out, the EU granted an extension to May 22 if the divorce deal was approved by Friday — or to April 12 if it was rejected.
The 58-vote margin of defeat for the deal was narrower than previous votes in January and March, but it still left the Government’s blueprint for exiting the bloc in tatters.
Mrs May’s deal was voted down even after the Prime Minister offered sacrifice her job in exchange for Brexit, promising to quit if politicians approved the agreement.
With the deal’s rejection, she will face pressure to step aside and let a new Conservative Party leader take over negotiations with the EU.
Opposition politicians declared the deal as good as dead. Labour Party legislator Ian Murray likened it to the dead parrot in a Monty Python comedy sketch.
“Her deal is no more,” he said. “It has ceased to exist. It is bereft of life. It rests in peace. It’s a deal that has been nailed to its perch. It’s an ex-parrot, it is an ex-deal.”
Deal or no deal, supporters want Brexit
Meanwhile, thousands of Brexit supporters have descended on central London on what was supposed to be the day the United Kingdom left the European Union.
The main “Leave Means Leave” protest outside Parliament was attended by senior Brexiteers including former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who called Friday a “day of betrayal”.
“We are protesting that our Government wants to ignore the democratic rule of the people, which was to leave the European Union — a clean leave to go,” said one protester, Maria Alison-Parr.
She wants a no-deal exit — meaning the UK leaves the EU with no formal agreement with the European bloc.
Many originally planned to come to London to celebrate what had become affectionately known among Brexiteers as “Independence Day”.
“It’s sad but it’s great to spend it with so many others that support Brexit still. It helps,” Ms Alison-Parr said.
Among them was Dave Lee, who also wants to leave the European Union with no deal.
“I’m really annoyed and angry and let down by the Government that we elected to put in Parliament that totally betrayed the British voter,” Mr Lee said.
“I’m sure there will be recompense for that at the next election when all these scumbag MPs that have defeated our vote — it’s absolutely disgusting and they have to be outed.”